APMA chairman admits tech-based competitions face hacking problem after Jeep issues

Jeep Australia competition screen shotThe fallout from Jeep’s ‘World’s most Remote Dealership’ is continuing with the chairman of the Australasian Promotional Marketing Association (APMA) warning the brand will be damaged by the chaotic handling of the competition.

David Lo sympathised with Jeep and its agencies Cummins & Partners and Wonder, who created the competition, insisting they “did not set out to frustrate people”, but admitted the increasing reliance on technology to run competitions was creating dangers for the industry.

His comments came as unconfirmed reports emerged of angry scenes erupting in dealerships, with sales staff threatening to call the police in one incident before ejecting one disgruntled member of the public.

Lo said: “I preface this all from every agency’s perspective by saying ‘there but for the grace of God’. Jeep, Cummins and Wonder here have been victims of their own success. They did not set up this competition to frustrate people.

“Nothing is perfect, we live in an imperfect world and there will always be problems. In this instance the client has not been ripped off and no-one suffered any degree of loss other than frustration which is unfortunate.

“Jeep could look at it and say we appear to have a bug here, we’re not going to award any prizes and we will run it again when we fix the bug. The real damage here is to the brand and reputation, which is unfortunate.”

He said websites have been created where people are “sharing flaws in terms and conditions around competitions and how people can defraud the system”.

“There are people who make their livings from competitions and are making tens of thousands of dollars every year doing so,” he said.

“We ran a competition before Christmas giving away a piece of hardware, and we prepared ourselves to be attacked by hackers, but what we got was on a completely different level. It was like something out of a movie.

“More and more we need to be careful, it’s getting more complicated the more technology there is involved, it makes it more vulnerable.

“We have caught people red handed cheating, but the clients have been reluctant to do anything about it, and then we have caught people again three months later pulling the same tricks.”

One commenter on Mumbrella’s story yesterday, purporting to be a Jeep salesman, said they had had to escort one man from the premises who was angrily protesting about the competition, while other dealerships spoken to by Mumbrella said they had received phone calls about the campaign, which dealers were not directly involved in organising.

The ACCC said it is aware of consumer concerns relating to the Jeep ‘Remote Dealership’ promotion.

The watchdog said Australian Consumer Law prohibits businesses from making false, misleading or deceptive representations and concerns may arise where consumers are misled into error from representations used as part of the promotion of products or services.

It added that whether the activities of a business raise concerns under these provisions depends on the circumstances of each case.

In making any assessment as to what action it would take, the ACCC would have regard to the elements set out in its Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

Jeep Australia said it was currently working on responses to issues posed by customers, and declined to answer questions at the time of publication.

Alex Hayes and Steve Jones


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