Fake news leads to Bata losing $158k in a month

The B-First shoes which reportedly had the word "Allah", meaning God in Arabic, on the soles. The shoes were among the company's best-selling products with around 1,500 pairs sold weekly prior to the controversy.
The B-First shoes which reportedly had the word "Allah", meaning God in Arabic, on the soles. The shoes were among the company's best-selling products with around 1,500 pairs sold weekly prior to the controversy.PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Claim that shoes had 'Allah' on the soles went viral, forcing 70,000 pairs to be withdrawn but firm now cleared

PETALING JAYA • Shoe company Bata lost more than RM500,000 (S$157,787) within a month after fake news about it selling shoes with the Arabic word "Allah" formed on the soles went viral.

Since the controversy surfaced in cyberspace in February, Bata was forced to withdraw 70,000 pairs of the B-First school shoes from 230 stores in Malaysia, said country manager Paolo Grassi.

The shoes were returned to the shelves only after Bata was cleared of the allegation by the Al-Quran Printing Control and Licensing Board of Malaysia's Home Ministry on Thursday.

"That episode not only caused us to lose money, but our image suffered as well," he said.

"We are relieved to be cleared by the authorities.

"To show our sincere efforts to respect the cultural and religious sanctity of the people of Malaysia, we will produce new mouldings for the B-First shoes after the existing stock is sold out by June this year," he said on Friday.

"We have been cleared by the ministry. Should anyone continue to put Bata in a bad light after this, we will not hesitate to take legal action," he warned.

The controversy started after the principal of Sekolah Agama Bandar Batu Pahat issued a letter on Feb 8 to its students, forbidding them to buy the B-First school shoes, claiming that the shoes had the Arabic word for God on their soles.

The claim then spread online.

Sin Chew Daily quoted Mr Grassi as saying the B-First shoes were among the company's best-selling products with around 1,500 pairs sold weekly prior to the controversy.

The company also had to spend money on transporting and packing the shoes during the recall.

In Malaysia, unverified and often false claims of various products or brands being unfit for Muslims' consumption frequently surface online.

The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia's (Jakim) Halal Hub division regularly has to clarify that they are halal or permissible for Muslims.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Fake news leads to Bata losing $158k in a month'. Print Edition | Subscribe