Singtel may face legal action over smear campaign

Singapore telco could be slapped with lawsuits after its social media agency ran a smear campaign that instructed its bloggers to badmouth the services of its competitors, StarHub and M1.

Singtel's competitors are considering legal action after the Singapore telco apologized for an online smear campaign its social media agency had initiated.

Singtel last year roped in Gushcloud to run a campaign targeted at the youth community, but a local blogger published the agency's internal brief instructing its network of bloggers to badmouth StarHub and M1's services while encouraging their readers to sign up for Singtel's mobile plans.

In its apology, Singtel told local media it neither issued the brief nor condoned negative or smear campaigns. On its part, Gushcloud offered only an apology for "the misunderstanding" via a Facebook post, saying the brief was "not meant to be read in isolation without the full context and verbal briefings".

StarHub's chief marketing officer Jeannie Ong told The Straits Times it had contacted Singtel about the incident and was evaluating its legal options. It also asked the latter to ensure all false comments spread by its staff and Gushcloud were "retracted and corrected".

"Such marketing tactics are unethical and we do not condone such negative campaigns," Ong said.

A spokesperson from M1 added that it would explore further action including legal if necessary. Both telcos had asked ICT regulator Infocomm Development Authority to look into Singtel's role in the campaign.

Singtel in January unveiled a new corporate logo and enhancements to its customer service, as part of the telco's revamped branding that also will include enterprise service improvements over the coming months. The exercise included a new slogan, "Let's make everyday better", which the telco said aimed to improve services that impact the simple "day-to-day things" that consumers do.