brands under fire

Retailers Reject $7 Billion Swipe Fee Settlement and File Suit Against Visa, MasterCard

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 24, 2013 02:42 PM

Millions of credit cards are swiped each day in America, meaning Visa and MasterCard are raking in big bucks from retailers daily under the current fee structure. Following a dispute over the swipe fees, Visa and MasterCard were prepping to pay out a $7.2 billion settlement to retailers, but now, the brands and the National Retail Federation have denied the settlement and instead have decided to sue the credit companies. 

Macy's, Target, Office Max, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Saks, and about a dozen other big retailers have banded together and sued Visa and MasterCard, Reuters reports. Walmart and 18 other retailers didn’t get in on the suit, but will “consider pursuing separate legal actions over damages.”Continue reading...

brands under fire

Another Failed Mea Culpa from A&F After Activists Show Up at HQ

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 23, 2013 03:04 PM

It’s been seven years since Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries told Salon.com that his company is only interested in outfitting the cool, hip, skinny, “all-American kid(s) with a great attitude and a lot of friends.” He’s been paying the price for his exclusionary comments, though, for the past few weeks since Business Insider republished the quotes in a story about how A&F didn’t carry any women’s XL or XXL sizes.

The A&F brand has been taking a beating since. YouGov’s BrandIndex charted 18- to 34-year-old’s thoughts on the brand versus fellow retailers H&M and American Eagle. The latter two went up slightly while A&F’s numbers plummeted. Jeffries, no doubt, is regretting his comments from way back when (or at least is annoyed that BI brought them to the world’s attention again). On May 15, Jeffries posted a note to the company’s Facebook page that went for the old “quote has been taken out of context” argument and claims that the company is “strongly committed to diversity and inclusion.”

That may be so, but Jeffries may have misstepped again Wednesday when a group of teen activists showed up at the doorstep of the Columbus, Ohio, headquarters of his company. They were taken in, People magazine reports, and had a meeting with company execs but Jeffries didn’t bother to stick his head into the proceedings even though this has been a PR disaster for his company.Continue reading...

brands under fire

US Brands Still Holding Out as Bangladesh Government Looks to Place Blame

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 23, 2013 01:54 PM

Almost one month to the day after the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1,127 people, American retailers and their international counterparts remain at odds over the plan to improve labor conditions, with legal liability still at the top of US concerns.   

Gap, one of the largest American retailers implicated in industry accidents in Bangladesh has said in recent weeks that it was close to signing the proposed agreement, if only clauses regarding arbitration were removed. “In the United States, there’s maybe a bigger legal risk than there is in Europe,” said Gap CEO Glenn Murphy, according to The New York Times. “If we were to sign onto something that had unlimited legal liability and risk, I think our shareholders should care about that.” Calling the language of the agreement "vague and unclear," Gap, along with Walmart, Target, JCPenney, Sears and other major US retailers have bilked at signing the accord, despite the fact that over 30 global brands had signed on by the proposed May 15 deadline.Continue reading...

brands under fire

Apple CEO Defends Tax Strategy, Attacks US Tax Code in Testimony with Senate Panel

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 21, 2013 03:52 PM

Apple CEO Tim Cook was in Washington, D.C. Tuesday to go before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation, which is accusing the huge corporation of avoiding paying US taxes.

Sure, Apple paid about $6 billion in taxes to the US government last year and, according to iMore.com, “already pays $1 out of every 40 tax dollars the U.S. collects,” but according to the committee, Apple has been stashing billions in offshore accounts in Ireland, where the company had reportedly negotiated a tax rate below 2 percent. One of the Irish subsidiaries is known as Apple Operations International, which has no employees but posted $30 billion in income from 2009 to 2012, the Committee reports. 

"We are proud to be an American company, and we are equally proud of our contributions to the U.S. economy," Cook told the panel. While the company was lauded for its technilogical and economic contributions to the US, Sen. Carl Levin told the panel that "Apple executives want the public to focus on the U.S. taxes the company has paid, but the real issue is the billions in taxes it has not paid, thanks to offshore tax strategies whose purpose is tax avoidance, pure and simple," the L.A. Times reports.Continue reading...

brands under fire

Bangladesh Victims Yet to See Compensation as Governments Pressure Compliance

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 21, 2013 12:54 PM

Fortunately, the issues brought to light by the recent horrors in Bangladesh are not disappearing from the headlines. Unfortunately, those who are culpable are not acting swiftly enough.

What little consensus has emerged from the rubble of a collapsed eight-story factory, which claimed over 1,120 lives, underscores the fact that public-private collaboration is vital to enact the sweeping reforms required for real change rather than corporate social responsibility campaigns. Major retailers including Walmart, Gap, JCPenney and Sears have yet to sign the proposed fire and safety agreements, while Walmart, like the wolf guarding the hen house, said it will monitor its 300-plus Bangladeshi suppliers itself. However, H&M, along with 30 other international retailers committed to the $3 billion fund to improve the safety of garment factories in Bangladesh.Continue reading...

brands under fire

Hyundai Looks to Put Mileage Misstep Behind It, but Lawsuits Still Linger

Posted by Dale Buss on May 20, 2013 01:39 PM

Hyundai is reportedly close to settling 38 federal lawsuits filed after it overstated the fuel economy of its cars. Such a turning point might suggest a grand statement by the brand seeking to sweep that nasty episode behind Hyundai for good with a hearty mea culpa.

But just as Hyundai marketing stewards have done from the beginning of this shameful interlude that began in November, they're making sure they communicate primarily with the offended parties—Hyundai owners—instead of with the general public. Hyundai simply continues to carry out the remedy it came up with last fall of an apology to those owners, changing of internal procedures about estimating mileage, and a reimbursement to its customers consisting of debit cards for gasoline purchases to help make up for the mileage they "lost," around $88 for each year they've owned the vehicle with overstated mileage.

"We're focusing on the owners," Steve Shannon, CMO of Hyundai of America, told brandchannel. "We think we're doing the right thing. Every day a certain number of [reimbursement chits] come in and we send them a debit card, and the owners tend to be very pleased with the fairness of the settlement."Continue reading...

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brands under fire

Investors Speak Out Against US Retailers Over Refusal of Bangladesh Reform

Posted by Alicia Ciccone on May 17, 2013 05:47 PM

It turns out that angry consumers aren't the only ones that American retailers need to worry about. In a joint statement published Thursday, a group of investors sought out to express their dissatisfaction with US retailers that have refused to sign the Bangladesh fire and safety agreement.

The release, undersigned by Amalgamated Bank Longview Funds and 14 others said, "We expect companies in our portfolios to ensure the integrity of their supply chains." The group, which reportedly holds a combined $1.35 trillion in assets, called out both Walmart and Gap, two major US retailers who spoke out against the accord, advising them to act swiftly and effectively in agreeance with the legally-binding proposal, which was signed by over 30 international companies by its May 15 deadline. 

The response is a reaction to the late-April factory collapse in Savar, Bangladesh that has now claimed over 1,120 lives. The accord, which is a version of a previously proposed agreement that was in effect turned down by several US retailers in 2011, hopes to protect the millions of Bangladeshi people that work in the country's 5,000 garment factories, for as little as $38 per month. The industry, now the second largest garment producer next to China, has seen a surge in recent years, resulting in the creation of faulty building sites and poor labor conditions. The circumstances surrounding the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory highlight the shortcomings of an industry built on loose ethics and fast, inexpensive turnaround. While the agreement looks to enforce independent building inspections and fire and safety training, it also hopes to create a more open administrative atmosphere for workers to present their concerns.Continue reading...

brands under fire

Feds Target Bitcoin as Future of Virtual Currency Becomes Uncertain

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 16, 2013 06:14 PM

Just as BitPay raises $2 million from the Founders Fund, Federal officials have seized Bitcoin funds belonging to Dwolla, the website that serves as an exchange for the virtual currency. 

It’s the first intervention by the government against the online money system garnering increased attention as Immigration and Customs Enforcement froze the accounts of Mt. Gox, the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange that receives funds from Dwolla. One Bitcoin is currently worth about $110, up from $13.50 at the start of the year. Federal law requires money transmission services to register with the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and Mt.Gox had not complied, leaving president and CEO Mark Karpeles facing up to five years in prison.

Washington has been eyeing the Japanese start-up since it hit the mainstream radar in 2011 when a report by Gizmodo explained in detail how the mostly-anonymous currency could be used to be illegal drugs over the internet. The report prompted Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to call for its shut-down as an "online form of money laundering."Continue reading...

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