1. Definitely not appropriate, 2. Probably not appropriate, 3. Undecided, 4. Probably appropriate, and 5. Definitely appropriate
__5___ Careful study of trade journals –
There is no law that prohibits the access to trade journals. Anyone with a subscription can freely peruse through journal contents. Furthermore, trade journals are reputable sources that collect data through legitimate means.
Aside from this being against the law in most countries, it also infringes against the universal right of individuals and other entities to privacy.
__4__ Posing as a potential customer to competitors
Although there is nothing preventing an entity from doing this, the effort that the competition needs to exert to entertain the “fake” customer is an unethical burden to impose. This is unless the “spying” entity intends to avail of the competitor’s goods/services anyway for comparison in which case I see absolutely nothing wrong with it.
__4__ Getting loyal customers to put out a phone `request for proposal` soliciting competitors` bids
Since these are loyal customers, then the ‘requests for proposal’ are obviously superficial. However, it rests on the shoulders of the competitors to weed out these superficial requests and not give in to them.
__5__ Buying competitors` products and taking them apart
It’s called reverse engineering. If you pay for something, then you have the right to learn as much as you can from it. Of course, this is strictly on an information gathering perspective. Copying the work and selling it is subject to a whole other set of rules.
__2__ Hiring management consultants who have worked for competitors
I see nothing wrong with the company making this move. However, the consultants are of course subject to limitations bound by their contracts to competitors that they had worked for previously. These conditions usually include confidentiality in which case it would be futile for the company to try to get info from another company by extracting it from consultancy firms that their competitors have previously used.
__4__ Rewarding competitors` employees for useful `tips`
So long as the ‘tips’ are legally acquired, there’s nothing wrong with it.
__3__ Questioning competitors` customers and/or suppliers
There’s nothing wrong with conducting information drives to customers. Customers usually have small grievances on a competitor which could prove useful for the company. Suppliers are another matter. Suppliers especially ones that have exclusive customers by region usually do not divulge information regarding their clients.
__5__ Buying and analyzing competitors` garbage
It’s the same as buying the competitor’s products.
__1__ Advertising and interviewing for nonexistent jobs
This blatantly fools not only the competitor but also the general public. It constitutes a violation
__5__ Taking public tours of competitors` facilities
Since it is a public tour, then it’s perfectly alright for the company to tour competitor facilities as guided by the rules in those facilities. Violating the rules (such as taking pictures when not allowed to do so) is another matter.
__2__ Releasing false information about the company in order to confuse competitors.
Although the company aims to confuse competition, what it’s actually doing is also confusing the public which is generally an unacceptable business practice. There are some exceptions such as when the company bait’s competition with information that does not affect any other public or private entity aside from the competitors. These exceptions could mean something like deliberately leaving fake files in front of a competitor.
__2__ Questioning competitors` technical people at trade shows and conferences
Like the consultancy firms, these individuals are probably under strict contract not to divulge any pertinent information. There is no problem in questioning them, but what they reveal might even be false information that could damage the company rather than help them with the competition.
__5__ Hiring key people away from competitors
This is piracy. As long as the company can make offers that its competitor’s employees can’t refuse, it’s a free country.
__3___ Analyzing competitors` labor union contracts
It completely depends on the nature of the contracts. If it is a matter of public document, then there’s nothing wrong with procuring and analyzing it. If not, then the competitor’s privacy should be respected
__1___ Having employees date persons who work for competitors
If this is obligatory which is what is implied by the statement, then it violates the private life of the company’s employees. It is also most likely beyond their employees’ job descriptions. If it is voluntary, then it seems to be a matter of personal morals, although I’d still say that it is cruel.
__3__ Studying aerial photographs of competitors` facilities
This strictly depends on whether or not the law allows the act. I see no moral contentions outside those of mere adherence to government mandate.
Gordon, H. (2003). Business Ethics. Pinedale Press: New Jersey