Appliances Online sacks agency after bloggers lodge complaints of ‘content theft’

appliances online facebookWeb retailer Appliances Online has sacked its digital agency after discovering it had ripped off content from bloggers and passed it off as its own.

The electrical goods firm told Mumbrella it terminated the contract with Sydney-based Stencil HQ yesterday with immediate effect, after bloggers posted on its Facebook page accusing it of populating its social media with other people’s content without credit.

One blogger, Nagi Maehashi, said she reported the behaviour to Facebook.

Stencil HQ confirmed today that an investigation had revealed third party content had been used and a member of staff fired as a result.

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Maehashi, who runs a blog called Recipe Tin Eat, posted: “This whole page is utilising stolen content. I have reported my content you have stolen to Facebook, as are many other bloggers.

“I hope you are prepared for this page to be shut down as that is the consequence of stealing people’s work. I must say, I’m appalled. I’m an Australian blogger and I’m so disappointed to see a fellow Australian company stealing people’s hard work without giving credit.”

Another post, from Callen Dellar, read: “It would appear that your social media team are doing some very dodging [sic] things using other peoples content and re-badging it as your own….. You have 370,000 likes and are one of the top online stores in Australia, surely you have the marketing budget to come up with your own content. If not at least do the right thing and seek permission from the owner of the content and give them a credit. ‪#‎socialmediafail‬.”

Appliances Online chief executive John Winning, who jetted into Australia only yesterday morning from an overseas trip, told Mumbrella that a decision to rip up the contract with Stencil was made by chief marketing officer James Fleet as soon as the claims were verified.

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“We contacted Stencil and the moment we discovered the allegations were true we terminated the agreement,” Winning told Mumbrella. “They apologised and told us two juniors had been managing our account at the time. It seems it wasn’t a one-off. It was multiple posts.

“I am extremely disappointed. I have spoken to one of the bloggers who was affected and offered my sincerest apologies. I also gave her my mobile phone number and said if any other blogger affected by this would like to to call me I’ll be happy to personally apologise.”



Winning said he was offering to either remove posts or credit the author.

A statement from Winning, which later appeared on Appliances Online’s Facebook page, said: “It has been brought to our attention that a third party agency working for us has been using content from bloggers without crediting them. We take this matter very seriously and we have terminated the contract with the third party agency, effective immediately.

“We are investigating the situation and are actively working with the bloggers involved to try and rectify the situation. As an online business we hold the utmost respect for all bloggers and would never knowingly post images without consent.”

Stencil managing partner CJ Hudson admitted some content “had not been appropriately credited”.

“This is against our company policy and as a result the individual involved no longer works for us,” he said in a statement. “We have reminded all our employees again about their obligations to credit copyright holders and to develop their own original creative work. We have also reviewed and strengthened our content creation and approval processes.

“We are bitterly disappointed this has resulted in losing our long-term client relationship and apologise to anyone affected by these actions.”

Appliances Online, one of the biggest retailers of electrical goods online in Australia, was founded by Winning in 2005.

He said the incident validates his view that such work should be kept in-house, explaining it began working with Stencil in 2013 when its in-house social media manager left the company.

“I am quite public about being anti outsourcing. We like to be in control of our own destiny and outsourcing is giving away your IP,” he said.

“We had someone in-house managing our social media but when they left we were looking for short term options. Stencil were recommended and they appeared to be doing a reasonable job. We were happy enough and so kept them on.

“It is very rare for us to outsource anything and the one thing we did outsource happens to be the one thing that has let us down”

Steve Jones


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