PRs launch 'Apology Clause' campaign to tell businesses they can apologise without legal liability worry

A trio of PR professionals have launched a campaign to raise awareness of a little-known law under which businesses can apologise when something goes wrong, without worrying that it amounts to an admission of guilt.

The 'Apology Clause' campaign aims to make it easier for businesses to behave with compassion when things go wrong (©ThinkstockPhotos)
The 'Apology Clause' campaign aims to make it easier for businesses to behave with compassion when things go wrong (©ThinkstockPhotos)

Companies often avoid apologising when customers are injured, killed, disadvantaged or inconvenienced while using their services, and this is often put down to a fear of opening the business up to legal retribution.

Perhaps the most infamous recent example of this was the nine years it took holiday firm Thomas Cook to apologise for the death of two children on holiday in Corfu - while businesses who give quick and sincere apologies often enjoy a quicker reputational recovery.

Guy Corbet, a former Brands2Life MD who is one of the three founders of the Apology Clause campaign, told PRWeek: "Businesses are often conflicted. They may want to do the right thing and act with compassion, but they can feel forced to put their fear of legal retribution ahead of what they may see as their moral obligation."

The campaign notes that section two, part one of the Compensation Act 2006 is entitled 'Apologies, offers of treatment or other redress', and reads: "An apology, an offer of treatment or other redress, shall not of itself amount to an admission of negligence or breach of statutory duty."

While this is seen as legally sound by Sue Stapeley, a qualified solicitor and one of Corbet's co-campaigners, they would like to see this clarified further in law. The other member of the campaign is former BDO comms director Nick Wright - all three are Fishburn Hedges alumni. 

Apologies 'make a real difference'

Corbet said: "The campaign has been set up to make it easier for businesses to behave with compassion when things go wrong, and thus for victims to have better recoveries. We want to raise awareness of the current law so it is used far more often, and taken into account by insurers. Ultimately the law should be clarified it in parliament or through a body of case law."

He also said that apologies make a "real difference to people who have suffered... often victims of serious traumas can become frozen emotionally in the moment of those terrible events and an apology can help lift the burden so they can start to rebuild their lives".

The campaign was covered on BBC Radio 4 last week, and Corbet has written a blog on about the project. There is also a petition, which had garnered 39 signatures at the time of writing.

However, correspondence with the Government on the matter indicates it is not likely to be an immediate legislative priority.

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