Media Advertisers Who Believe They’ve Entered Contracts Due To False Info Can File A Police Report: Lawyer

Media Advertisers May Seek Litigation Over Inflated Circulation Numbers

On Monday (9 Jan), SPH Media acknowledged that there had been inflation of daily circulation figures by between 10-12%.

SPH Media Finds Inconsistencies In Data Reporting Over 1.5 Years, Senior Staff Leave Company

Some copies and subscriptions were found to be double-counted after a review was undertaken for the period between September 2020 to March 2022.

Advertisers may thus ask if they were misled when signing for packages under SPH Media newspapers and brands.

Speaking generally, a lawyer told MS News that advertisers may consider seeking legal assistance if they believe there’s evidence of misrepresentation.

SPH Media claims reach is not a factor in packages’ prices

SPH Media told advertisers in an email on Tuesday (10 Jan) that it does not derive its advertising prices from circulation numbers.

According to chief executive officer Teo Lay Lim in the email, SPH Media advertising packages are “based on reach and readership of individual titles, and our SPH Media solutions as a whole”.

She claimed that data on reach and readership is collected periodically via a survey panel statistically representative of the Singapore population.

“This data is obtained from and verified by independent third-party research agencies, namely GfK.”

An SPH Media spokesperson also told The Straits Times that circulation numbers reflect the paid customer base, and is a key metric tracked by media companies. Circulation numbers indicate the number of copies distributed, and do not include pass-along readership.

While SPH Media advertises its reach numbers and uses that as a metric when selling to advertisers, it ostensibly does not include circulation numbers in its packages.

Advertisers may consider circulation & reach when deciding on platform

MS News spoke to Samuel Seow An, a lawyer in private practice and the Managing Partner of Yong, Seow & Lim Legal.

While declining to comment specifically on the SPH Media case, Mr Seow, speaking in general terms, said advertisers may consider factors like circulation and reach of a platform critical when making decisions as to which platform to advertise on.

“If an advertiser entered into an advertising contract based on a platform’s or its agents’ false statements regarding the platform’s circulation or reach, it is possible that the advertiser would have a civil claim against the platform, potentially for misrepresentation,” he added.

Mr Seow explained that such advertisers may explore litigation options to void the contract and seek damages.

Alternatively, if an advertising contract contains an obligation for the platform to maintain a level of circulation or reach over a certain period, and the platform fails to do so, the advertiser may also consider a claim for breach of contract and seek damages.

Advertisers may file a police report

When asked about potential criminal liability for SPH and its employees, Mr Seow compared the situation to “having dealings with any other company in Singapore”.

He added, “Generally, individuals or companies who believe that they have been cheated and induced into a contract or parting with any monies or property due to fraudulent statements made by agents of a company may wish to file a police report, possibly for cheating.

Following that, the police may investigate the case, and the Attorney General’s Chambers would decide if charges against the platform or its agents are warranted, Mr Seow said.

If charges are eventually filed, the court would decide on the allegations against the alleged wrongdoers and whether or not these allegations are proven beyond reasonable doubt.

A police report may be made alongside the commencement of a civil claim.

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