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Competitor Sabotage, How Far is Too Far?

Posted on 6.19.2014

:: By Jennifer Zdrojeski, Fueled ::

Modern levels of competition make it hard to be a business of any size in today’s marketplace. If you’re the newcomer you have to get really creative about standing out and making your voice heard, on top of providing a quality product. And if you’re the industry lead you have to watch out for all the little guys! 

This never-ending cycle of constantly having to watch your back usually provides the best quality product and options for the user, but it can also spawn some questionable business practices that toe the line of ethical behavior. Two recent scenarios come to mind, one involving tech giant Apple, and the other a feud between the recently popular Uber car service and their new competitor Gett.

With more and more Apple user complaints being raised about the lack of a different new products, many have taken to Android OS and Samsung or HTC hardware. Recently, they seem to be less afraid to try new things technologically. 

This is typically a non-issue, but reports are growing of complaints with Apple’s iMessage capabilities and problems sending messages to non-iPhones. The problem is, at its worst, sending a message to someone whom you formerly iMessaged but no longer has an iPhone. You have to manually send each message as SMS instead of iMessage recognizing the phone is no longer an iPhone. Otherwise, your message is lost forever in red “Not Delivered” purgatory.

It’s safe to say that it’s unlikely this problem is anything more than a nuisance, however, one customer who is seeking legal action has stated they, and others feel, “penalized and unable to obtain the full benefits of their wireless-service contracts.” Apple has since acknowledged the problem as a server glitch they’re working to resolve, but with no specific release date set for the bug fix. As a company that is typically on top of problems that garner this much coverage, questions remain on whether or not this is deliberate, or at least deliberately low priority. 

In the case of Uber vs. Gett, things are a bit more direct. Tech Crunch reports that in January of this year, Uber launched a DDoS style attack against new and quickly growing competitor Gett that may have crossed the line. Gett alleged that Uber employees would request Gett cars and wait until the car had nearly arrived before canceling service. This effectively made it harder for actual customers to reserve cars, hurting Gett’s bottom line, and tarnishing the public image of the new car service. But it didn’t stop there. Gett CEO, Jing Herman, also says once Uber employees had Gett car drivers’ telephone numbers from placing the order, they would call and entice drivers into switching companies, in some instances even offered cash rewards.

Uber acknowledged the speculation, admitting they did make the recruit attempts but denied any form of lead generation through mass requests and cancellations. In a statement released by the company they also admitted “It was likely too aggressive a sales tactic” but even if they didn’t wait until the drivers arrival to cancel, that still meant less availability for other customers.

It all comes down to the bottom line. With Apple’s “glitch” inconvenience, the likelihood that someone is losing out on money is slim to none, and it’s affecting its own users. Not the best practice, of course, but far better than Uber vs. Gett where a company’s revenue is affected and their ability to provide to their customers in the future is threatened. While recruiting competitors’ employees may be entirely legal, the ethics treads far more closely to the dark side than most are comfortable with, but how do you feel?

Jennifer Zdrojeski is an editor at Fueled, the leading iPhone app builder in New York City, renowned for its award winning mobile design and strategy.

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