Social Marketing: Perspectives and Viewpoints

By William Lazer; Eugene J. Kelley | Go to book overview
Providing competitors, consumer organizations, and other government agencies the right to seek injunctions from the above trade courts against any form or application of self-regulatory activity which is deemed unfair or socially harmful.

A significantly lesser form of self-regulation would be for trade associations to attempt to prosecute offenses under existing law. This approach might include the initiation of trade practice conferences in order to spotlight questionable activities within the industry and generate trade practice rules or guides. There are three major weaknesses to this approach. First, although the F.T.C. Act broadly prohibits unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts in commerce, it does not authorize private suits. The Lanham Act does authorize private suits, but applies only to false descriptions or representations in commerce. Second, while Congress could authorize private suits under the F.T.C. Act, neither this Act nor the Lanham Act reaches the potential of enforceable self-regulation for implementing social responsibilities. For example, as currently interpreted, neither law interdicts the sale of hand guns, "high-powered" cars, or telephone solicitation. Third, industries tend to have a "live and let live" attitude. Companies with high ethical standards seldom are inclined to report, much less take action against, the dishonest or offensive members of an industry.


CONCLUSION

The more technology advances, the more deeply will marketing become involved in social issues. The argument that business has no responsibility but to satisfy consumer wants is an open invitation to government regulation. In the short run, consumers to not always fully comprehend the private effects of their wants (witness disbelief of smoking hazards) let alone the social effects (say of D.D.T., nonreturnable containers, or private urban transportation). Nevertheless, reality cannot be denied, and wisdom eventually prevails. When business does not accept social responsibility in fact as well as in survey response,29 public regulation is eventually forced upon it.

Self-regulation cannot repeal human nature, and a free enterprise system cannot survive without a vigorous profit incentive. On the other hand, neither can a free enterprise system remain healthy if "the responsiveness of a firm to the consumer is directly proportionate to the distance on the organization chart from the consumer to the chairman of the board."30 What is needed is a greater sensitivity to changing public demands upon business.

____________________
29
See Arthur M. Lewis, "The View from the Pinnacle: What Business Thinks," Fortune, Vol. 80 ( September 1969), pp. 92-95, and 207-8.
30
Address by Virginia Knauer, Special Assistant to the President for Consumer Affairs, before the Federal Bar Association, Washington, D.C., September 1970.

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