Marketing your product to different demographics in order to increase your marketshare is a trick as old as business itself. You can see it with nearly any product that’s got a his and her version as quite often they’re pretty much identical, save for the price. Others are more subtle in their approach, sometimes selling products in weird sizes or even going as far as saying that one product is actually a completely different one (when it isn’t). The latter is what has landed Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of the analgesic Nurofen, in a lot of hot water with the ACCC.
The 4 above products, which are labelled in such a way to make you believe they’re designed to target specific types of pain, are in fact all identical to their generic pain reliever. Indeed even in this picture above (sourced directly from Nurofen’s site I might add) clearly shows that the active ingredients in all of these products is exactly the same. However the price on these products was significantly higher than their generic pain reliever which is what caught the ire of the ACCC. Nurofen has since lost their court battle with them and has been ordered to remove these products from shelves within 3 months, pay for the ACCC’s court fees and publish corrections in the media.
Whilst we’d all like to think that we’d be above such manipulation it appears that the vast majority of consumers would seek out treatment for specific types of pain rather than going for a generic pain reliever. This obviously presents an opportunity to artificially segment the market in order to generate more profit, something which nearly all major analgesic manufacturers currently do. This ruling then sets the precedent for ensuring that companies don’t engage in this kind of deception. However I hope the ACCC has their sights set on others as Reckitt Benckiser wasn’t the only one engaging in this practice.
Indeed Australia’s beloved brand Panadol also has various products that are also segmented along similar lines. Their Back and Neck pain tablets are identical to their standard tablets and the Osteo and Long Lasting Back and Neck pain ones are also identical in their formulation. Whilst I’m sure this ruling will likely prompt action from all analgesic manufacturers in Australia the ACCC can’t be discriminatory in whom it targets and they’ll need to pursue others who engage in such deceptive marketing strategies.
This ruling highlights the importance of being an informed consumer. Whilst there’s been great leaps made in recent times to make the information more accessible to your average buyer (unit pricing, for example) there’s still a major rift between them and the companies marketing to them. Rulings like this help to make sure that the companies are engaging honestly with us however we still need to be vigilant to ensure they don’t get away with any further tricks.
As someone who languished with dial up whilst all his friends got ADSL, then got ADSL and then moved to a location where the sync speeds weren’t all that great you can imagine why I’m always excited to hear good news about the NBN making progress. Sure I’m not stuck with my old 56K connection which served me well for the better part of a decade but I can think of enough uses for a 100Mbit connection that would make my life a whole lot easier (none more so than being able to host my own websites with a decent amount of bandwidth behind them). There’s been little news on how the roll out has been going and the only recent good news was that it wouldn’t be canned because of the hung parliament. Picking through my month sized backlog of blogs and news articles today changed that however.
On Friday it seems that the Senate approved a bill which splits Telstra’s wholesale and retail arms effectively putting an end to the natural monopoly advantage that Telstra had over every communications company in Australia. Back when I first heard about the government attempting to do this it seemed more likely that Telstra would be doing the separation themselves under the watchful eye of the ACCC. This legislation shows that such an arrangement couldn’t be met and instead the government has made good on its promise ensuring that the NBN can proceed as planned. Telstra isn’t wholly losing out in this deal however but they will be competing on level ground with the other telcos once the separation is complete.
The cost to the Australian public for this deal is $11 billion and that pays for all the copper networks and the Telstra customers that will be migrated over to NBNco. That cost may seem high however the alternative is to duplicate much of the infrastructure that supports the copper network, namely the cable ducts. Replicating that entire network just for the fibre cables would consume much more than the amount than what’s being paid to Telstra, especially if you factor in the costs of disrupting everyone while you dig trenches up major roads. Additionally with a good chunk of Telstra’s shares still being held by Australians and the Australian Government (to the tune of 10.9%) it works in Australia’s best interests to not tear into Telstra too ravenously, even if they deserve it.
The deal is fantastic news for the NBN program. Back during the election there was the distinct possibility that the hung parliament could have swung the other way which would have had it scrapped in favour of the Liberal party’s cheaper option. With that obstacle avoided it meant that the fledgling NBNco could continue the work it was doing in the initial pilot areas whilst plans for the larger implementations took shape. Now with Telstra’s network under their belt they can begin developing roll out strategies for larger deployments. That also means that should we face a change of incumbent parties in the next election it will be far too politically toxic for them to can it and Australia will end up with one of the most advanced communications networks in the world.
We are of course many years away from the majority of us receiving the benefits that the NBN will provide but it’s always good to hear that it’s still making steps towards its realisation. With the Internet filter dying an (albeit extremely slow) death the future of communications in Australia is starting to look a whole lot brighter than when it was back when I first started writing about it. Hopefully I can continue along those lines for many years to come, I’d hate to have to write about why the filter should die again 😉