Indonesian netizens sour on sweet drinks after iced tea brand threatens to sue customer

Illustration
Illustration

Sweet drinks may well be off the menu for many Indonesian netizens after they rallied behind a customer who was threatened with a lawsuit for overstating the sugar content of a popular beverage.

On Sunday, Twitter user @Gandhoyy posted a thread apologizing to sweet drinks brand Es Teh after he received a cease and desist notice from the company. 

@Gandhoyy had previously tweeted about Es Teh’s Chizu Red Velvet drink complaining about its excessive sweetness. In line with the hyperbolic tone applied throughout his tweet, he jested that the drink tasted as if it contained 3 kilograms of sugar while using some profanity to describe his displeasure.

Indonesia’s Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE), which has long been criticized as a tool to suppress freedom of speech, may be used to jail people for up to six years for online defamation.

Though @Gandhooy has apologized, the legal threat against him turned out to be a PR nightmare for Es Teh, as netizens rushed to condemn the drinks company for its heavy-handed approach.

“If there is a complaint [against your product], try to handle it with poise,” one user tweeted.

“This has made me more certain that I will never again buy Es Teh’s products,” another said.

Furthermore, a large number of netizens have also seized on the opportunity to champion water over sweet drinks due to the latter’s health risks. Some have even posted photos of nutritional information of sweet drinks like boba, soda, and even flavored milk for children, pointing to their alarmingly high sugar content.

Lawyer Frank Hutapea told Coconuts this morning that Es Teh committed a PR blunder by issuing the legal threat.

“If you sell a product that is consumed by the masses, you have to be ready to receive criticism and reviews. Though [@Gandhooy’s] review did have some profane words, [Es Teh] should have focused on the criticism towards its product,” he said.

“[Corporations] have to see the bigger picture, would [this legal drama] result in something positive for their product, or would it be counterproductive?”

Last year, local outdoor sports apparel company Eiger threatened legal action against a YouTuber over an independent review of its product that the company said did not meet its audiovisual standards. Eiger’s CEO then apologized following huge public outrage towards the company.

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