Vodafone. Tesco. Topshop. These are some of the best known and most popular brands in the UK. However, a group known as UK Uncut claims that they are tax dodgers who are reaping profits without contributing their fair share to the country that supports them.
To raise awareness about the perceived crimes, UK Uncut has been holding protests since last October. These have been successful in a few ways; they managed to temporarily close a location of Topshop as well as the flagship Vodafone store on Oxford Street. They also hacked several Vodafone blogs on the company’s ‘World of Difference’ website. However, according to a recent study performed by YouGov, the protest activity has failed to alter the brand reputations of or create negative buzz about the brands that it protests.
The study compared the brand fluctuations of Boots, Vodafone, Tesco, Topshop, and Bhs, comparing them to the timing of specific UK Uncut activities. The brands did have fluctuation in customer perception, but not corresponding to protest activities. In addition, none of the brands have seen a significant net drop in their scores since October, and three of them (Tesco, Topshop, and Boots) have actually seen their reputations increase.
For the record, the companies all deny that they avoid paying tax in UK. The claims from UK Uncut have been called ‘misleading’ and ‘simplistic’ by the companies involved. However, these businesses may seem more protest activities in the near future. Ben Glanville of YouGov claims that the activity is not affecting public perceptions because they aren’t enough to gain attention or affect the overall UK population. This sounds like a challenge if ever we have heard one.
Paying taxes is an important part of running a business, as are donating to charities and staying as green as possible. These activities show your customer base that you care about them and the UK while also avoiding the unfortunate situation of having your business targeted by companies like UK Uncut.
UK Uncut is making serious allegations. At a time when the Government is making £5 billion in cuts to charities for much-needed social services, the group claims that Vodafone has dodged £6 billion in duties to HM Revenue and Customs. This is just one company; if all of the companies accused were indeed tax dodgers, it would represent a tidy amount indeed.
The hacking of the Vodafone website was particularly momentous. The World of Difference website gives awards to UK citizens who are making a difference in their communities. These recipients then blog on the Vodafone website about their latest doings. According to UK Uncut, several recipient bloggers gave the protest organization their log-in information to help the protesters hack the website.
While the UK Uncut protests have yet to affect the UK brands that they target, they likely will make their mark eventually. You cannot have protests in front of your business every day without any long-term effect on your brand. The companies involved will likely have to prove that they pay their fair share of taxes to a nation where no penny is to spare.