Claim that businesses are charged exorbitant fees to answer complaints
From Reporter.co.za: "I have come across the most novel of moneymaking schemes that I’ve come seen in a long time - the beneficiary in this case being hellopeter.com. This one really takes the cake.
"Hellopeter.com is a consumer website, and in the words of the owner, a fellow called Peter Cheales is “searching for service excellence”.
"Let me give you a bit of background as to the details of our experience with hellopeter.com.
"Hellopeter.com is a consumer website that claims to receive six million hits per month. If you have received bad service from someone you can go to the website, www.hellopeter.com and lay a complaint. Recently a malicious complaint, devoid of some crucial facts, was laid against the company that I work for on hellopeter.com.
"The client was in breach of contract, but conveniently omitted this fact. As soon as the complaint went live we were sent a link via email which directed us to the page on their website where the article was displayed. Our company was asked if we would like to respond, to which we replied with a definite yes.
"We wanted to point out some obvious information that would have nullified the clients’ complaint. In order for us to post our response we needed to follow another link, which in turn led us to a page where we needed to fill in our details, upon which we were promised a response.
"After almost a week they responded, which means in the vicinity of close to one million hits would have been registered for that period.
"The response, however, was the truly shocking part. In order for us to respond we need to be registered with hellopeter.com as what they term, “A company that responds”. In order to achieve this status we need to subscribe, and the minimum period is one year. The cost is R13 500! This is the lowest category of subscription, and if you are a regular responder you need to take an upgraded package, which can be as much as R60 000 per year.
"Despite the fact that the complaint was untruthful, in order for us to clear our name would cost us between R13 500 and R60 000. Now I’ve tried looking at this from various angles but it still pretty much looks like a mass extortion scheme, especially since they do not even take care to validate the complaints that they post on their site.
"Their means of handling it means literally anyone can go and say anything against your company, whether it’s true or not, and then you have to pay a large sum of money to defend yourself.
"Just imagine: you just started out with your own company. Now everyone who has ever attempted starting his own company will quickly point out to you how you need to stretch your pennies when you are still establishing yourself.
"Then along comes your jealous neighbour or even a competitor, sucks something out of his thumb and posts it on hellopeter.com. Immediately you are set back at least R13 500 and that’s excluding all the negative marketing you will have to put up with.
"Just imagine starting out your new company and you do not have that R13 500. What would happen then? Would one then just need to accept that a website that receives six million hits per month brands your company as crap? This could break an upstart!
"I think the operators of the website should be ashamed of the means in which they generate their revenue.
Note: A check of the website confirms that "if you want to respond to comments about your business or practice, you need to subscribe and become a Company Who Respond". The benefits of joining include being sent an email notification whenever a comment is posted about your company and the contact details of the consumer."
When you sign up to HelloPeter, you are presented with the following statement: "The aim of this site is simple: to increase service levels of our suppliers. Any constructive criticism about any supplier is welcome. Compliments are gratefully accepted. But any comments that contain hurtful or racial statements will be deleted immediately. My site is not designed as a platform for vicious slander - it is designed as a highly sophisticated and economical way for Companies Who Respond to deliver the service that they profess to provide."
My comment: I use HelloPeter on an occasional basis because it seems to be the only way to "get through" to big companies when you have a complaint. This article takes a different view, and I must say I think it has a point. There are a lot of flaws with the HelloPeter system, especially the fact that you can't engage in dialog with the company once you've logged your initial complaint. Since Peter Cheales responds extremely badly to criticism, this is unlikely to change anytime soon.
Today I logged a complaint to bring his attention to this article. The complaint was deleted, and my account login no longer works. I can't decide if this was some kind of hissy fit or just coincidence. Time will tell.