Stephen Foley: Facebook loses a friend in Merck

 

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The Independent Online

US Outlook: Merck KGaA, a German pharmaceuticals company, is spitting chips because Merck & Co, its bigger US namesake and rival, has somehow managed to take over the facebook.com/merck page that it signed up for last year.

It doesn't know how control of the page was switched over, and it is getting ready to sue – either Merck & Co for theft or Facebook for breach of contract.

The case will be important and illuminating but, for now, the most notable feature of the court papers is their insight into Facebook customer service.

"On or about October 21, I received an email from an individual identifying herself as Marissa, User Operations, Facebook," Merck KGaA's lawyer Robert Horowitz says, describing the progress of his complaint. "After an exchange of several emails, it became clear to me that Marissa either did not understand the problem faced by Merck or was intentionally giving unresponsive answers to my inquiries. I sent her an email politely asking for a telephone number I could call to discuss the matter more fulsomely. I did not receive a response."

After more prodding, Marissa eventually writes to say that Facebook is "looking into the matter" but it takes several more emails and several more days before "Xavier, User Operations, Facebook" writes with another unhelpful message.

"Xavier wrote back on 14 November stating that 'we do not offer functionality or technical support from this email alias', and again displaying either an incomplete knowledge of the problem or evasiveness. I asked again for a telephone number in order to better explain the issue, to which Xavier incredibly replied that 'no one is available for a call at this time'."

Mr Horowitz emailed "Xavier" a final time on 15 November, coming up to four weeks from the start of the correspondence, and has received no further reply.

When a lawyer writes the word "incredibly", you know he has just torn the last of his hair out. It makes holding for a call centre operative sound positively appealing.

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