It was OK for the UK Daily Mirror to go undercover at a wine sales company, the UK Independent Press Standards Organization decided.
The company, via Wynn XS’s Talisha Greenwood, complained about the Daily Mirror’s March articles “Secret tricks of wine cold callers,” for which Mirror reporter Antonia Baget went undercover to report that the company “uses cold callers to persuade people to take their savings out of the safety of a bank account or pension and pump the money into fine wines.” But IPSO ruled the story was in the public interest and that the Mirror carefully handled the decision to report undercover.
In its report, the Daily Mirror said the decision to investigate was made after seeing an ad promising up to £120,000 a year for Wynn XS’s employees. The article reported,
“Investment company Wynn XS Limited uses cold callers to persuade people to take their savings out of the safety of a bank account or pension and pump the money into fine wines.
“How do they do it? ‘We hypnotise them,’ said boss Aaron Scott-Britten.”
Greenwood claimed the article was inaccurate, falsely stating that the CEO said the company hypnotises potential buyers and that company employees lie about their background.
The Daily Mirror, however, reviewed its decision to go undercover twice — before sending the reporter undercover and before publication — and that there was no way to learn if there was pressure or lying going on.
To support its reporting, the newspaper provided print and e-mailed notes from the undercover reporter.
IPSO agreed that “there was a clear public interest in investigating whether the company was using dishonest tactics to encourage customers to ‘invest’ in wine, and that there was no other way to get the story.”
“The investigation had uncovered sales practices at Wynn XS Ltd which would generally be considered unethical,” IPSO wrote. “It was not disputed that sales staff were trained to claim to customers that ‘small fortunes are always being made overnight within this market’, and discouraged them from consulting with spouses or financial advisers before investing.”