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How risky is it to publicly call someone else dishonest?

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 Uncle Derek 18 Aug 2022

I was listening to Radio4 and the top chap at AO.com, was speaking about his companies results, then mentioned John Lewis and said about them, "Never knowingly honest" then quickly corrected himself to "Never knowingly undersold".

A pretty serious thing to say about a business I would say.

You can hear him here, https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/live:bbc_radio_fourfm, at around 7.22 am.

Post edited at 08:10
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 Trangia 18 Aug 2022
In reply to Uncle Derek:

If it is an untrue statement, then it is slander. If it is a true statement it is not

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OP Uncle Derek 18 Aug 2022
In reply to Trangia:

> If it is an untrue statement, then it is slander. If it is a true statement it is not

I understand that. My question though is how risky is it to make that statement. Could a person of modest means and a loud voice, risk saying what they believed to be the truth, about a wealthy person, with aggressive lawyers.

 ExiledScot 18 Aug 2022
In reply to Uncle Derek:

Believing something to be true, isn't the same as knowing. 

Belief, faith in something despite no evidence ie religion. 

Think, a view based on your knowledge of something, which could be a little or vast.

Know, a fact, something you can corroborate.

Often politicians, senior staff of companies have their speeches and quotes legal vetted, so they can imply untruths as a fact, using language that doesn’t leave them libel.

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 mondite 18 Aug 2022
In reply to Uncle Derek:

>  risk saying what they believed to be the truth, about a wealthy person, with aggressive lawyers.

Look up lawfare especially, until recently, the way the various Russian oligarches were using the British courts to silence critics using libel/slander.

It depends on the countries legal system eg US you could well get away with it but the UK has multiple cases of expensive legal cases which even when defended successfully still financially cripple the person.

Even if you managed to defend yourself it could end up being costly and extremely stressful.

Post edited at 09:38
In reply to Uncle Derek:

How risky?  In this case, I would say not very. John Lewis almost certainly wouldn't want to draw attention to it by doing anything.  

Incidentally, from 22 August JH aren't using "Never knowingly undersold" any more.

In reply to Uncle Derek:

> I was listening to Radio4 and the top chap at AO.com, was speaking about his companies results, then mentioned John Lewis and said about them, "Never knowingly honest" then quickly corrected himself to "Never knowingly undersold".

Yes.  I thought it was a deliberate 'slip' and that he probably thought he was being clever.  Never having heard of him before, it made me think he was probably a prick. 

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 plyometrics 18 Aug 2022
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Totally agree re the deliberate slip. That said, assuming he’s a prick based on that is a bit rash. He was in the year above me at school and always seemed like a nice enough chap. 

Whilst I don’t know him personally now, his approach to business and philanthropic work leads me to believe he’s probably not. 

OP Uncle Derek 18 Aug 2022
In reply to plyometrics:

I suspect he is frustrated by JL's Holier Than Though image. 
I have always thought it an empty promise, as they would price match, but not then reduce the price to everyone, when they clearly knew that people were selling cheaper.

In reply to Uncle Derek:

In the context you describe I imagine John Lewis’ official response would be nothing more than an eye-roll. To be honest the glib, puerile comment reflects more badly on the speaker than than subject, and I’d hope AO find someone more professional for future events.

In reply to MG:

> Incidentally, from 22 August JH aren't using "Never knowingly undersold" any more.

They have for years explained clearly what they meant by it, i.e. bricks and mortar stores because it's impossible for a full-service department store to get its costs down as far as those of an online only box shifter.  But yes, because people are being picky it's being dropped.

In reply to rj_townsend:

> In the context you describe I imagine John Lewis’ official response would be nothing more than an eye-roll. To be honest the glib, puerile comment reflects more badly on the speaker than than subject, and I’d hope AO find someone more professional for future events.

AO are the Ryanair of appliance purchase (though are a lot quicker to refund than O'Leary is), of which speaking "outrageously" is part.

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 fred99 18 Aug 2022
In reply to Trangia:

> If it is an untrue statement, then it is slander. If it is a true statement it is not

He was on the radio and knew it - surely that would upgrade the offence to libel.

 kmsands 18 Aug 2022
In reply to MG:

I distinctly remember as a child, ‘Never knowingly undersold’ was a firm promise to refund the difference if you found the same thing elsewhere cheaper. Some years later it became ‘Never knowingly undersold. On quality. On service. On price’, with no explicit offer of refund. The three different factors making any trade descriptions claim much harder to argue or prove - e.g. it's more expensive, but the service is better - enabling them to get away with being pretty expensive.

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In reply to Trangia:

> If it is an untrue statement, then it is slander. If it is a true statement it is not

I always thought that a defamatory statement was slanderous whether true or not, in that it slanders somebody.

However if the statement is true, then only an idiot would take you to court since they would be rather unlikely to get damages even if technically you had slandered them.

And in response to another poster, I don't believe libel is implicitly more serious than slander, but it's more likely to be provable because there will usually be some residual evidence. In practice it may usually be more serious because libellous remarks are likely to reach a larger audience than slanderous remarks (allegedly 😁).

 Billhook 18 Aug 2022
In reply to Michael Hood:

You cannot take someone to court for slander if, what they say or print is true.

https://brittontime.com/2021/07/02/what-is-slander-and-how-can-i-make-a-claim/

In reply to Billhook:

Yes you can, you'll just lose. The link you give says that "if it's true" is the best defence, which rather implies that you can try and sue someone for slanderous truth.

In practice of course this means that nobody does sue in these circumstances unless, in my opinion, you're an idiot. A recent much publicised case I believe falls into this category.

 Billhook 18 Aug 2022
In reply to Michael Hood:

Well your solicitor is unlikely to advise you to do so unless they think you have a strong case.  But If its true you are wasting your time.  You can take people to court for lots of things which if not proved  and you'll loose and therefore they are not guilty of whatever you claimed they were guilty of.

You cannot really have a 'slanderous truth. Its a contradiction in terms.  If what is written/spoken against you is true  - its not slander.

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In reply to Billhook:

I think we're just quibbling about semantics here, if I said "the plaintiff sued the defendant for an allegedly slanderous statement which was subsequently proved by the defendant to be true" - or similar - then I think we'd both understand what was going on.

Using that "style" of language, you'd have to say that a slanderous statement which turns out to be true should only really have been called an alleged slander (or libel) - which is fine by me.

I totally agree with your statement "But If its true you are wasting your time" - as Ms Vardy may (allegedly) have now discovered.

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In reply to Michael Hood:

In order to be slander it has to false and malicious.   It’s it true it’s not slander.

 Duncan Bourne 20 Aug 2022
In reply to Uncle Derek:

Private Eye have been defending themselves against this sort of thing for a long time.

As has been mentioned before I refer you to the case of Arkell Vs Pressdram

https://lettersofnote.com/2013/08/07/arkell-v-pressdram/

 ripper 20 Aug 2022
In reply to Uncle Derek:

My understanding is that if you're sued by someone claiming you've defamed them, and if you want to use truth as your defence, you have to able to prove to the court that what you said was true. IE there must be good evidence. The plaintiff, by contrast, does not have to prove that the statement was false, only that it was defamatory. At least that's IIRC

In reply to Uncle Derek:

If the fella is from Sheffield then what he said is probably true

OP Uncle Derek 21 Aug 2022
In reply to Graeme Alderson:

> If the fella is from Sheffield then what he said is probably true

He is from Bolton, the home of Wilton Quarries, where all the best climbers come from. Seems a decent bloke to me, and TBH I have for years though JLs promise was a bit dubious, and can well understand his frustration

 henwardian 21 Aug 2022
In reply to Trangia:

> If it is an untrue statement, then it is slander. If it is a true statement it is not

Not really.

A lot is dependent on context and on whether something could realistically be taken at face value. While it didn't happen in the UK, there is a film about Hustler's supreme court case about exactly this kind of thing. They won the case because the sorts of things they had said wouldn't be taken at face value by anyone with an ounce of common sense. Now, what you can get away with is probably down to how good a lawyer you have but from the sound of the OPs post (I've no idea how to get to 7.22am on the webpage linked), it's pretty obviously a joke play on the phrase JL use to advertise so I'd say that winning a slander case with that would be nigh on impossible.

 Trangia 21 Aug 2022
In reply to henwardian:

So to would calling Boris Johnson a serial liar be construed as slander?

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 henwardian 21 Aug 2022
In reply to Trangia:

> So to would calling Boris Johnson a serial liar be construed as slander?

I don't know (or much care) but the example you are giving is completely different to the OP. It isn't a corruption of a phrase Boris used to market himself. It wasn't followed immediately by a clarification. It is entirely believable (the idea that a company could never knowingly be honest isn't just implausible, it's impossible).

 streapadair 22 Aug 2022
In reply to Uncle Derek:

Interesting, tangentially, this look at Nadhim Zahawi's tax affairs.

https://www.taxpolicy.org.uk/tag/zahawi/

tl;dr  The shiny new Chancellor (allegedly) dodged tax on £4m; messrs Sue Grabbit & Runne have entered the fray.


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