The Cobra Group
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|Headquarters||London, United Kingdom|
|Key people||Chris Niarchos
Founder and Chairman
Paul Sanderson, CEO
Richard Davison, CFO
Mike Blane, Managing Director
The company is based in London, UK and Sydney, Australia, and has an affiliate network of legally independent sales companies in 25 countries throughout Europe and Asia. The company was originally founded in Sydney as an offshoot of the now defunct American direct marketing company DS-Max, and the founder was an employee of that group at the time Appco was founded. Appco has since shifted its main operations to the UK, and is also no longer formally associated with DS-Max or any of its currently existing partners. Despite this, Appco still controversially uses the same techniques established by parent company DS-Max.
The Cobra Group represents firms in industries such as telecommunications, home security, energy and financial services. The group is also contracted by some charitable organisations to collect donations in the form of a pledge and enlist new donors.
Responses within the community
Although The Cobra Group is known for some contributions towards socially benevolent causes (such as work with Save the Children), the organisation has also received negative press, including investigations by the Daily Mirror and the BBC. The BBC found misleading practices by representatives, leading the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Energy Select Committee to release a report threatening to ban energy companies from using direct sales. Video footage from past investigations offers proof of Cobra Group contracted companies participating in bad practices such as lying to potential customers, and according to this report (in which the Cobra group is specifically named) the year 2002 saw 12000 consumer complaints against salespeople in this industry. Some past and current sales people for the company have also commented on questionable sales methods and the repercussions for the salespeople involved.
The Cobra Group (and founder Chris Niarchos) have sponsored various types of motorsports drivers since 2003. Chris Niarchos, through the Cobra Group, partnered with Andrew Kirkaldy in 2006 to the form the British racing team then known as "AKA Cobra". This partnership led to the formation of CRS Racing in 2007.
Some examples of the ill-treatment of workers in companies contracted by the Cobra Group are documented in a successful unfair dismissal case in Ireland in 2008. A Zimbabwean woman was awarded €50000 by the Equality Tribunal after successful litigation against her former employer Steven Broadey of Boss Worldwide Promotions Ltd. (BWPL). The payment ordered by the equality officer responsible for the case was for compensation of €5000 for "harassment and discriminatory treatment" and another €45000 compensation for discriminatory dismissal. The main argument used by Broadey in defending his case was that the worker in question had been a self-employed sole trader and not actually an employee of his company. Prior to the dismissal the worker in question had been lauded as the highest fundraiser within Boss Worldwide Promotions Ltd, and was given a positive mention in Cobra Group promotional literature for this reason.
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