: not responsible:
: not answerable to higher authority
: said or done with no sense of responsibility.
It is an unfortunate reality that not all corporations are socially responsible. So that you can avoid the pitfalls of getting involved with some of these questionable organization, we have drawn up a list of the top ten socially irresponsible companies which are currently in business today.
1. LifeVantage Corporation.
LifeVantage’s core business is the identification, research, development and distribution of dietary supplements and skin care products. LifeVantage’s products are primarily marketed via multilevel channels. LifeVantage’s major product is Protandim, a natural dietary supplement derived from a combination of milk thistle, bacopa, ashwagandha, green tea and turmeric.
LifeVantage is one of the socially irresponsible companies selected because of several reasons. First, Protandim is defacto marketed as a remedy for a number of illnesses, including old age and cancer, but these claims haven’t been substantiated by robust testing in human trails. In addition, Protantim has been heavily criticized as being overpriced for the amount of ingredient each pill contains. A bottle of Protandim pills retails for around $40.00, but costs about $1.50 in materials to make ~ a markup of 2,566% (see here).
Consumer reviews available online are mixed concerning the LifeVantage product line. The most common complaints refer to expensive price tags, failure to work as advertised, skin reactions, stomach discomfort, bad taste and concerns that the company’s marketing model is exploitative. Consumers have also complained that the company continues to charge credit cards after the cancellation of services (here).
2. Volkswagen of America & Associated Dealers.
Volkswagen’s falsification of emissions records is now common knowledge. Volkswagen had deliberately programmed its turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engines to activate certain pollution controls only during emissions testing. The programming caused the vehicles’ emissions output to falsely meet US standards during testing, but emit up to 40 times more pollution in real-world operation (here). The scandal impacted at least 500,000 vehicles in the United States and resulted in a settlement of $10 Billion paid by Volkswagen.
What is less well covered is the Federal Trade Commissions (FTC)s efforts to control fraud as part of settlement. As part of the deal with State and Federal governments, Volkswagen has agreed to buy back some 2.0 liter Volkswagen diesels for more than their current replacement value. However, the prospect of $10 Billion raises the possibility that ethically questionable behavior by VW dealers could occur. Accordingly, the FTC issued a warning directed at independent VW dealers cautioning them against making false statements about the Volkswagen buy back deal.
DirecTV (written as DIRECTV) is an American direct broadcast satellite service provider headquartered in El Segundo, California. As of 2015 the company was a subsidiary of American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T).
Direct TV’s business practices appear abysmal – the company has consistently been penalized by state consumer regulatory agencies. For example, DirecTV has run afoul of regulators in California (2008), in Washington State (2009) and with the Federal Trade Commission (2005 & 2015). Most recently, DirecTV has been accused by Federal officials of bilking its customers by locking them into long-term contracts without providing transparency about future rates. During Direct TV’s 2009 dust up with Washington State, 47 additional states joined a similar suit compelling DirecTV to change its business practices (here).
DirecTV has an impressive track record of treating its customers poorly. In August of 2008, coverage by the Boston Globe showed that DirecTV had about 20,000 complaints in three years registered with the Better Business Bureau. In 2010, the BBB reported it received 30,000 complaints about the company, giving it a grade of F. Currently, DirecTV is the company with the most complaints on consumer protection website pissedconsumer.com – 6,859, with most complaints dealing with issues related to poor customer service (here).
4. Le-Vel Brands LLC.
Le-Vel Brands, LLC is a privately held company owned by Jason Camper and Paul Gravette and located Frisco, Texas. Le-Vel pr offers health and wellness products including DFT, THRIVE Capsules, THRIVE Lifestyle Mix, and the THRIVE Plus line of health products. The primary method of marketing the company’s products is mult-level. While Le-Vel has only been in operation for a few short years, the company has made a mixed impression on the local Better Business Bureau – racking up 95 complaints in 2016 while paradoxically maintaining an A+ plus rating. In addition, reviews by independent media suggest Le-Vel is a pyramid scheme and exaggerates the health benefits of their products (here and here and here).
Feedback on ecommerce websites like Amazon.com has been mixed, however some customers report that THRIVE products negatively impacted their health including possible side effects like liver damage (source).
5. Little Tiny Waste.
This North Carolina retailer of women’s compression clothing made the Better Business Bureau’s listing of 2015 worst businesses. Lead by owner/operator Joede Grant, the company operates under a variety of names, including Alijoe Boutique, Colombian Waist and Girly Curves.
Complainants from 30 states and Canada allege Tiny Little Waste failed to fill orders or to provide refunds to customers who did not receive their order. The BBB rates Little Tiny Waist an F with 13 unanswered and unresolved complaints in 2015 and 68 total complaints in the last 36 months (here). The company is a repeat offender – the 2015 listing is the second time that Little Tiny Waist has made the BBB’s North Carolina front page. Finally, the high level of customer complaints has prompted investigation by local news.
The source of the complaints seems to be management inventory control practices. Joede Grant is alleged to have promoted products on social media that the company did not actually have on hand to sell. In some cases, employees were instructed to print shipping labels to convey to customers their order was on the way or employees were knowingly instructed to send another article of clothing, or clothing of a different size in place of the article the customer had ordered. This behavior borders on what could be considered an illegal bait and switch operation.
6. RainSoft/Aquion Inc.
RainSoft is a division of Illinois based Aquion Inc., an international manufacturer and marketer of water treatment equipment. Rainsoft in on list of socially irresponsible companies because independent reviews suggest while not illegal, Rainsofts pricing, financial and sales procedures leave their products of questionable reputation. The Rainsoft EC4 purification system in particular is said to be is overpriced, that the company offers exorbitant financing terms (17%) and uses high pressure sales tactics (here). Community responses via online forums have been similarly negative. Complaints board, Ripoff report, and city-data.com all contain unflattering comments about the company.
Readers should note that Rainsofts reviews are not entirely bad – and should you wish a Rainsoft system financing terms cheaper than 17% are available. However the generally negative tone and consistency of public criticism strongly suggests Rainsoft merits mention here.
Modlily is an online retailer of women’s clothing. It is one of a family of companies owned by a single entity in China. Modilly has quickly developed a bad reputation. Consumer advocacy site pissedconsumer.com, lists Modilly has having over 1,800 complaints. Complaints allege that Modlily’s clothes, sent straight from China, typically don’t match pictures online, often take forever to arrive, and are a nightmare to return. Not only is the company offering terrible customer service, its also appears to be engaging in copyright violation and false advertising. A recent investigation by independent media organization Buzzfeed showed that the company was using pictures of clothing from social media and competitors sites without attribution or permission. Here are some comments from complaintsboard.com.
“The items are cheaply made, come from China and it’s too expensive to exchange, if needed. I just threw $45 down the drain!”
“Beware of their return policy!! If they ship you the wrong item, the customer must pay to ship it back to China AND they only give you 60% back from what you paid for it as a restocking fee. They don’t pay for their mistakes, they expect the customer to pay for their mistakes. I ordered 4 items from them, and 2 of them were sent to me 3 sizes larger than I ordered. They refuse to pay to correct the issue. They told me if I wanted all my money back I should sell them online. Plus, their products are very cheaply made!”
“I placed an order with these jokesters one week ago today, paid extra for two day shipping, have made several inquiries and a couple phone calls and the order still hasn’t shipped..originally, they said one item on the order was holding it up, so I had them remove that item to speed up shipment. That was three days ago and it still hasn’t shipped..But these $#*!s had no problem charging my card asap..will never order from here again!!..Modlily is a complete joke.“
8. Stitch Fix.
Stitch Fix is a personalized styling service whose core business is a combined concierge fashion and retailing model. Stitch Fix customers fill out a survey online about their style preferences and a stylist sends items of clothing to the customer for review. While Stitch Fix has received mixed coverage in mainstream media, online reviews have been less kind – many comments revolve around poor customer service, price gouging, poor quality clothing and concern that payments for customer referrals are tantamount to a ‘pyramid scheme’ (here). In particular one review found that stitch fix appeared to be selling Nordstrom rack clothing at an 80% markup over retail (here). The stitch fix CEO attributes the markup to a mistake in the stitch fix shipping department, although dissatisfied customer comments appear to suggest this is common practice.
The California Better Business Bureau shows 17 resolved complaints for Stitch Fix.
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FortuneBuilders is a real estate seminar and coaching company associated with former National Football League player Nathaniel “Than” Merrill. Critics allege the company gains customers by using a teaser strategy with a free to low cost introductory seminars designed to stimulate interest and sales. Customers are then enticed to purchase additional coaching and education – at times costing $25,000 or more. The fees, when contrasted with client’s assessment of the value of the education suggest that FortuneBuilders is overcharging for their services. This appears to have lead to numerous problems for the company. For example, FortuneBuilders has drawn the attention of several media organizations who have criticized the company for a lack of transparency as well as deceptive marketing (here).
FortuneBuilders has 30 mentions on pissedoffconsumer.com. Reviews are mixed.
10. Stream Gas & Electric/Ignite Energy.
Stream Gas & Electric Ltd. (d/b/a Stream Energy) was founded in August 2004 after the deregulation of energy markets in Texas. Stream Energy was licensed as a retail electrical provider by the Public Utilities Commission of Texas on January 21st, 2005 and formally began operations through the initial enrollment of Texas electricity customers in March of 2005. The company has since expanded to other states and currently operates in Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and the District of Colombia. The company primarily markets through an MLM model run by its Ignite Energy.
Ignite Energy is a socially irresponsible company as evidenced by their involvement with Texas regulatory agencies. In 2011 and 2012, Stream Energy/Ignite, were fined $96,000 by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) for violating consumer protection rules. In 2014 they were subject to a class action racketeering lawsuit in a Houston Federal court alleging that they used illegal multilevel techniques to market their services. As of October 2015, this lawsuit appeared ongoing.
Photo credit: Widjaya Ivan.
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