Telcos want IDA to probe alleged smear campaign by bloggers

Telco M1 and StarHub are asking the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) to look into allegations that bloggers were asked to complain about their services.

M1's spokesman Chua Hian Hou said: "Such practices are unethical and we intend to seek clarification with the relevant operator on this matter. We will also request IDA to look into this... and will explore further action if necessary."

StarHub's chief marketing officer Jeannie Ong said that it was "deeply disturbed" by the tactics employed and the possible damage to its brand.

These allegations came to light on Saturday when blogger Xiaxue, whose real name is Wendy Cheng, put up "leaked" documents allegedly issued by social media marketing firm Gushcloud to the bloggers it represents. One directive in the alleged document asks bloggers to complain about the services of other telcos as part of a promotion strategy for Singtel's youth plan.

A Singtel spokesman said Gushcloud was one of the digital agencies it used in June last year for its campaigns but it did not issue the brief.

"It is Singtel's policy to focus on the strengths and differentiators when marketing our products and services. It is not our practice to run negative campaigns against any individual or organisation," she said.

Gushcloud co-founder Althea Lim, 30, told The Straits Times that it is currently investigating the matter and would not comment further. In a Facebook post on Saturday, Gushcloud wrote: "The publicly posted brief was an internal brief prepared by Gushcloud for its influencers. The brief is not meant to be read in isolation without the full context and verbal briefings given by Gushcloud."

When contacted, IDA said it is aware of the matter and that operators should abide by the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice, which states that all advertisements should be legal, decent, honest and truthful, and should not unfairly attack or discredit other products or organisations.

"In the spirit of fair competition, IDA has always encouraged our licensees to focus on promoting the availability, price and quality of their own services or equipment, and refrain from negative campaigns against their competitors. This will allow end-users to make informed choices," it said.

limyihan@sph.com.sg