Target rightfully slapped by BSA

The Herald reports:

TV3 consumer affairs programme Target has been ordered to pay nearly $40,000 after it wrongly accused an Auckland cafe of selling food with a high faecal coliform reading. …

Target wrote to Cafe Cezanne’s owners telling them a chicken sandwich from their cafe had tested positive for faecal coliforms. However, the letter contained incorrect information about the date of purchase.

The owners questioned whether the sample was from their cafe but Target went ahead with the broadcast.

The programme was forced to apologise the following week after it found a mistake had been made in labelling the samples, and the show broadcast a statement saying: “Due to a human error by a former Target staff member coding the results, we cannot confirm which cafe produced this high faecal coliform count”.

This is the worse part of what Target did. Their original appalling error was bad enough, but their so called apology actually made it worse by leaving open the possibility the cafe was Cezanne, when it could not have been.

I really don’t know why it is so hard for some media companies to simply say sorry without reservation and make a full apology.

The full BSA decision is here.

I recommend people with an interest, read it. You’ll be in no doubt that the got this one right. Target could well have destroyed the cafe’s reputation and business.

The starting point for payment of a successful complainant’s legal expenses is 30%. The fact the BSA ordered Mediaworks to pay 100% speaks volumes about how serious this was. They also ordered them to apologise not just on Target, but on all the Mediaworks radio stations, and to take out an ad in the Herald. That may help restore the damage done to Cafe Cezanne.

Both Fair Go and Target are great shows which have provided many benefits to consumers. But they have to be beyond reproach in the way they collect and analyse data, and in this case Target fall way short. Hopefully they will learn from this, so there is never a repeat. This means not just a change in procedures, but also in attitudes. Their treatment of the cafe owners was arrogant and their initial apology grudging.

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