Friday, February 13, 2009

Campaigners appeal in Nestlé spying case. Nestlé appeals in abuse of power in the coffee industry case.

IBFAN figures in the report passed by a spy to her control at Nestlé, a former MI6 officer. The spy had infiltrated the Swiss group, ATTAC, which was developing a book looking at different aspects of Nestlé malpractice. I attended the launch of that book to speak on the baby milk issue in 2004. So I've been interested to follow the case from a distance. Today there is a report saying that a Swiss Judge has thrown the case out on the grounds that it is not against the law for corporations to spy on people! See:

It is ironic if the courts accept a corporation can pass someone off as a campaigner to infiltrate an organisation and gather sensitive and confidential information. When the Nestlé Critics website was being launched last year, Nestlé's lawyers wrote to Baby Milk Action threatening legal action on the absurd basis that the site was "passing off" as a company site, despite the text making it clear it was an analysis of Nestlé's claims, with a prominent link to Nestlé's own site for information from the company. The metadata, which appears in search engine listings, also made it clear it was a site with information from Nestlé's critics. See:

Nestlé demanded we hand the original domain name ( over to it, which we refused to do, as it has already been published and we had reasonable grounds to suspect Nestlé might put something on the domain "passing off" as a campaign site to dupe campaigners into sharing information, just as its spy had done.

So on the one hand Nestlé thinks it is fine to infiltrate organisations with a spy, but thinks it is outrageous that an organisation should have a domain with the Nestlé name in it, less someone visit it looking for information on the company. The court has sided with Nestlé on the spy. We have heard no more from the lawyers about the domain name.

ATTAC Switzerland is appealing against the Judge's decision.

Coincidently, today we learn that Nestlé is also going to court to appeal a decision, in this case in Greece. Greece's competition watchdog has levied of EUR29 million fine against Nestlé. According to the AFP news agency, the company said, "We deem this decision unfair and reject the charges". The Greek authorities accused "Nestle of taking steps to shoulder out other coffee providers in its deals with supermarkets, restaurants and distributors."

Aggressive marketing practices from Nestlé are all too well known for those of us monitoring its behaviour in the baby food industry. This is also the company that misled George Clooney over its baby food marketing practices to persuade him to appear in Nespresso advertisements. See our briefing at:

And it ran a national advertising campaign in the UK portraying it as having a positive impact on coffee farmers when it launched a Fairtrade-certified brand, neglecting to say that the Fairtrade brand only involved 0.1% of the coffee farmers dependent on the company and that it had been strongly criticised for its negative impact on the other 99.9%. See:

It will be interesting to see who gets furtherst with their appeal: ATTAC Switzerland or Nestlé.

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