Coronavirus profiteering: Australian brands behaving badly

Qantas and Telstra are among many Aussie companies criticised over their handling of the outbreak.

Qantas and Telstra are among many Aussie companies criticised over their handling of the outbreak. Photo: TND

Major Australian retailers are being called out for using the coronavirus crisis to push sales.

Brands have been bombarding customers with emails and SMS marketing messages that play on fears and encourage unnecessary panic buying.

Consumer advocate CHOICE has found multiple examples of well-known Aussie labels using pushy marketing tactics to sell products.

But it’s not just retailers that are looking to profit off the current climate.

Telstra and Qantas have also come under fire for their tactics during the outbreak.


Qantas has also grounded all international flights until June. Photo: AAP

Speaking to The New Daily, Dr Michael Callaghan, a lecturer and researcher in both departments of management and marketing at Deakin business school, said companies that behave badly will lose favour with Aussie consumers.

“Telstra on the one hand, are saying people need to limit their data use and the use of wifi on phones because the NBN is not as good as it could be,” Dr Callaghan said.

“But then on the other side of the fence they’ll be saying they’re doing the right, socially responsible thing by consumers by offering bonuses on data and upgrading pensioners to the next level.

“There are organisations that are playing both ends against the middle.”


Telstra has been criticised for pushing data upgrades during the crisis. Photo: Getty

Meanwhile, Qantas has been criticised for asking for handouts from the government while also asking staff to take leave without pay.

“We are talking about large organisations that are owned by shareholders, they are not owned by the community, they’re not owned by the government,” said Dr Callaghan.

“On one hand they’re putting their hand out for government assistance, but then on the other hand they’re using the coronavirus situation as a way to force their employees to take excess leave or leave without pay”

This comes as the major Aussie airline stood down 20,000 employees on Thursday. 

Australian retailers are also feeling the pandemic pinch, with many resorting to pushy ads that hound their customers to buy face masks and hand sanitiser.

The ads use terms like “Stock up now before it’s gone”, “Order now! Limited stock” and “Stock up and stay safe” to scare consumers into purchasing products.

Crossroads is another brand accused of ‘panic marketing’. Photo: CHOICE

CHOICE has placed Mosaic Brands as the one of the worst offenders.

Mosaic Brands is the parent company behind Aussie labels Rockmans, Katies, Millers, Rivers, Noni B, Beme, Autograph and Crossroads.

“Australians expect more from major retailers at this time. Using pushy sales tactics to exploit anxiety about COVID-19 to encourage panic buying is not on. These are disgraceful marketing tactics”, says CHOICE consumer advocate Jonathan Brown.

“The Prime Minister has called for calm. We think this advice should apply to the business community too. We need all brands to be responsible and support the community to navigate these challenges, rather than cash in on fear.


Katies is an Australian women’s clothing brand owned by Mosaic Brands. Photo: CHOICE

“Just because we are at a difficult junction at the way in which our country is operating because of the threat of the virus, that doesn’t give a green light to morally bankrupt processes and throw out the company’s code of ethics.”

“If a company wants to survive longer than these terrible times, they should basically behave and trade as they would normally,” Dr Callaghan said.

“Because it’s what happens on the other side of a crisis that determines their ongoing profitability as an organisation.

“Consumers tend to have long memories … bad behaviour won’t simply be forgotten.”

Dr Callaghan also urged consumers to file complaints with the ACCC if they noticed brands using dodgy tactics such as price gouging or providing misleading information.

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