When companies take advantage of administrative silence

Companies, such as individuals, are slaves of their words and sometimes they face a huge problem if their ambitious targets are not met. Putting these missed goals in a drawer, as if no journalist would ask about them afterwards, is a risk that should be avoided if they want to keep their reputation unscathed. So it’s worth thinking twice before setting any guidelines.

In the Spanish legal sphere, the ‘administrative silence’ concept is defined as “a way of abnormal conclusion of the administrative procedure that operates when, upon expiration of the term to resolve a claim, request or petition and and no decision or resolution has been issued, the omission, delay or negligence in the pronouncement is supplemented by a legal effect that the law gives to such silence.”

This formula can have a positive or negative meaning, but in many cases, it implies a tacit refusal of a petition or appeal by the citizen due to the mere expiration of the deadline that the Public Administration has to issue its verdict.

Companies sometimes prefer to remain silent as part of their communication strategy. It normally happens in negative circumstances. For example, when environmental objectives have failed to be met.

In such cases, it is noticeable how forecasts tend to be forgotten and companies silently abandon these goals or modify their scope, similar to children hiding leftovers under the carpet in order to avoid being scolded.

However, journalists have an elephant’s memory and tend to return to the subject, especially if it is controversial and generates interest. The problem is when this leads to a serious reputational crisis. In this case, and if the silence persists, it will be taken to be an escape mechanism that proves the guilt of the company, thus leaving its image damaged. In the end, this strategy is, for all practical purposes, the acceptance of a failure which irreparably harms credibility, with the bad consequences that this may have on the business and its stock performance, in the case of listed companies. There are millions of euros at stake, which may disappear from the market capitalization at a stroke of a pen, together with the trust its customers place in the brand.

By Carlos López Perea, senior consultant at Estudio de Comunicación.


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