On a reasonably regular basis, companies who are the subject of a complaint to Fair Go come to us for advice or training. If we think they’re ratbags, hoping to enlist our help in ripping people off, we send them packing. Otherwise our advice is the same advice we give to all our clients: be straightforward, tell the truth, admit your mistakes. And: Sort it out. Fix it. Recently I gave a brickbat to Fair Go for an item it did on a company called My Refund. The company undertakes for a fee to apply on your behalf to the IRD for a refund, if it discovers you are entitled to one. Two of My Refund’s clients were kept waiting an unreasonable amount of time for their refund to be sent to them. A third not only didn’t get a refund, but discovered that she now had to pay the IRD almost $1,000. She would have been better to let sleeping dogs lie. My Refund did not deny that these three people had a justified complaint. It gave a statement to Fair Go, explaining what had gone wrong, offered an apology, immediately sent their refund cheques to the first two complainants and generously paid the third complainant’s $1,000 tax bill for her. A model way of handling a complaint. But despite this, company CEO Steve Brook’s name and photograph were put up on the Fair Go ‘wall of shame’. The reason? Brook had declined to be interviewed on film or in the studio. His name and photograph are presumably still on the wall, with other ‘villains’.
This situation was repeated on this week’s programme. More than a month ago Fair Go broadcast a series of complaints by Slingshot customers who felt they had been badgered by salespeople into using Slingshot’s service or, in one case, had received extremely poor service. Slingshot provided the programme with a detailed response to the complaints, apologised, fixed the problems and compensated the complainants for their trouble. Another model response. However, Slingshot General Manager, Mark Callander did not appear on the programme and his name and photograph went up on the wall. But he did appear this week. He was there, we were told, to get his name and photograph off the wall. But not before Fair Go replayed the complaints against the company, which Slingshot had sorted out more than a month earlier. Callander was then given a minute to say why he should come off the wall. It emerged in that minute that Callander had in fact agreed to be interviewed by Fair Go, but the appointment had been cancelled – by the programme. He was not available the following week to do the interview. The only word to describe all of this is ‘outrageous’. This is a programme out of control, arrogantly assuming the judicial powers of a court to subpoena ‘the accused’ to appear before it in person, and to put up ‘wanted posters’ if they refuse. Its producers seem to have lost sight of the fact that Fair Go is not a court, it’s a television show. When a company answers a Fair Go complaint in writing, apologises, fixes the problem/s and compensates the complainants, it has done everything that can reasonably be expected of it. It is under no obligation to provide entertainment fodder for television.