On Sunday, part of my sermon had a go at unethical business practices and how we, as consumers, and as Christians, had a part to play in making ethical choices in our consumption. Well, here’s my opportunity to speak out against downright dishonest and misleading business practice.
This evening I received an email from Virgin Media, my phone and internet provider. A friend had already received one, so I knew it was going to appear sooner or later. Here’s the main text from it
We’re writing to let you know about a change to your monthly bill. Now that eBilling is our main billing option, we won’t be offering our £1 discount from 1st October. But don’t forget, there’s still a £1.25 charge for customers who choose to have paper bills, so you’ll carry on saving £1.25 a month – and a few trees too.
Now, I can’t help think that not only is this somewhat disingenuous, but it’s downright dishonest. I think it deliberately seeks to mislead and misrepresent the ‘savings’. I’ve not used paper billing for a long time. In fact, I don’t think any of my utility bills or banking have used paper billing or statements for a long while – my bit to ‘go green’. So, the truth of the VM change is that it will be costing me an extra £1 per month. But apparently I’ll be saving £1.25 – so that’s all right then.
Short-cutting safety systems and using overworked labour may the headline unethical business practices, but things like this are every bit as insidious. They might not cost lives, but they undermine the ethical integrity of business. If one can get away with it, then they all will and will push the boundaries even further. Why not simply be more honest and say they’re dropping the £1 e-billing discount and charging an extra £1.25 for paper billing. Yes people may well grump about it, but prices and ‘offers’ change. You can always shop around if you really want. But at least it’s honest and has a degree of ethical integrity.