Companies accused of internet high-jinks

By Charlotte Eyre

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Whole foods market, Chief executive officer, Coca-cola

Company executives-turned-internauts at Danone and Wholefoods are
accused of blackening the reputation of their rivals online,
according to the Financial Times today.

The alleged cases could demonstate the intense rivalry between companies in a tough competitive environment is leading to claims and counter claims about underhanded marketing strategies. In the first court case of its kind according to the FT, Coca-Cola is taking Danone to court in Argentina over an alleged smear campaign against its Dasani brand. Two Danone executives are accused of spreading the rumour on the internet that Dasani, launched in Argentina in 2005, is "cancer water" and comes from a tap, the FT said. These ideas have now made their way on to blogs across the internet community, Coca-Cola alleged. A quick internet search does indeed display a bloggers' interest in Dasani water, with one even speculating that the product would either kill him or give him superpowers. Coca-Cola told the FT that the spread of comments is evidence of "a widely circulated, two-year internet smear campaign".​ Another businessman accused of internet name-calling is Whole Foods chief executive officer John Mackey, who has been attacking takeover target Wild Oats in an investors' online message board, the FT reported in a separate story today. Mackey took time out of running a multi-million dollar company to make the postings because, in his own words, it was often 'fun'​, the FT reported. "Sometimes I simply played 'devil's advocate' for the sheer fun of arguing. Anyone who knows me realises that I frequently do this in person, too,"​ Mackay told the FT.. His actions were instigated by his annoyance with the Federal Trade Commission, which blocked his planned merger with Wild Oats on the grounds that it would be anti-competitive in a number of important markets. The FTC "didn't do its homework properly"​, he said on the blog, and employed "bullying tactics against Whole Foods Market". ​ His comments also included personal attacks on Perry Odak, Wild Oats' former CEO, the FT stated.

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