Jan 29, 2008

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire


If you ask your customers to make videos bashing your competitors, does that make you liable for their false or exaggerated claims?

According the today's New York Times, it's something Quizno's is about to find out.

It seems that Subway is suing them over videos made as part of a contest sponsored by the rival sandwich maker where Quizno's fans were asked to create videos that depicted "Quiznos sandwiches as “superior” to Subway’s."

It seems some of the contestants took that to heart, with one video showing a woman returning home with two sandwiches- a Quiznos for her husband and a Subway for her dog.

From my POV, it seems to defy the spirit of the law to allow companies to get their customers to do the dirty work for them. If a company is actually sponsoring a contest, then they need to be held accountable for the truthfulness of the resulting work. If the company has nothing to do with the videos, that's another story. But sponsoring a contest is essentially putting your seal of approval on it and holding your hands up and saying "Oh, but consumers created it. Not us!" is a disingenuous response better suited to 4th graders than to large corporations. I mean seriously, who are you fooling?

It will be interesting to see where the courts net out. Subway is claiming defamation, which is a lot more nebulous than false claims. Because I'm not sure you can actually slander a sandwich (the actual title of the Times' article, to give credit where it's due.) But if the videos fall outside of what would be acceptable under current law, then Quizno's deserves to take a hit.

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