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Your January PR crisis round-up: Fujitsu, Boohoo and Boeing

What a crisis-ridden start to the year. Fujitsu is (finally) facing its day of reckoning over the Post Office scandal; Boohoo is in hot water for mislabelling and misleading consumers; and Boeing’s safety record is under scrutiny.

Fujitsu and the Post Office

The Post Office, Fujitsu and the UK government have managed largely to ignore 20 years of campaigning, hundreds of news articles, a Panorama episode, a book and an excellent BBC podcast on the Post Office scandal. But finally, this miscarriage of justice has their full attention, thanks to the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which has been streamed more than 12 million times.

It’s incredible to me that Horizon is still in place at the Post Office, and Fujitsu still has so many government contracts (including the FCDO, HMRC and the Home Office). Fujitsu told the business and trade committee hearing this week it is “truly sorry” for its part in the most shameful period of the Post Office’s history and acknowledged it has “a moral obligation” to contribute financially to the victims who lost their livelihoods, their homes, their reputations, and in some cases their lives.

Cynics might ask why Fujitsu didn’t acknowledge that moral obligation in 2008, when it first spotted problems with the system (according to testimonies heard by the inquiry). Or why it was only after the ITV drama that the government decided to overturn convictions and speed up the process of compensation, Paula Vennells handed back her CBE, and the Post Office did anything to admit its role in the scandal.

For many, this will be too late.

Boohoo

Boohoo is the gift that keeps giving in crisis terms. This month, the fast-fashion brand has allegedly been caught putting ‘Made in UK’ labels on clothes made in South Asia. Boohoo said this was ‘human error’ caused by a misinterpretation of labelling rules. It’s hard to see, though, how removing original labels and replacing them with ‘Made in UK’ on hundreds of thousands of items could be called misinterpreting the rules.

A statement from Boohoo said it has ‘taken steps to ensure this does not happen again.’ What those steps are is anyone’s guess.

@bbcnews Boohoo put "Made in the UK" labels on potentially thousands of clothes that were actually made in South Asia, BBC Panorama has found. #Boohoo #Fashion #FastFashion #Clothes #Clothing #UK #Asia #BBCNews ♬ original sound - BBC News

Boeing loses trust on safety

Boeing had a bad start to the year when a door blew off an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 aircraft mid-flight. (Fortunately, there were no casualties.) This has put the spotlight back on the safety record of an airline family that’s been beset with problems since two of its aircraft crashed in 2018 and 2019. Critics have said for years the 737 Max is unsafe, something Boeing has consistently denied until now. The fleet has been grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and Boeing says it will act with ‘transparency’.

Had it acted faster when problems were first reported, it might have more trust from its customers and regulators in this latest crisis.

Article written by Kate Hartley is co-founder of crisis simulation company Polpeo, and author of ‘Communicate in a Crisis

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