It’s one thing to identify MAP violators. It is quite another thing to stop them.
Today’s retail marketplace is driven by E-commerce. In many ways, this is a good thing for manufacturers. If its products are sold online, a company can use computerized technologies to efficiently monitor retailers. There are a host of reasons why a manufacturer might want to do this.
Chief among them is to ensure its products are being marketed within the parameters of the manufacturer’s Minimum Advertised Pricing (“MAP”) policy. MAP policies are important tools for manufacturers. For example, by ensuring that a product is never advertised below a certain price point, companies can preserve the image of a brand as having a certain level of quality. Typically, companies will create and enforce MAP policies through a network of authorized retailers who are contractually bound to adhere to the policy in exchange for being included in the authorized network.
Unfortunately, MAP policies are routinely violated in online marketplaces like Amazon. MAP violators tend to come in two forms. The first are authorized sellers who have chosen to breach the policy they’ve agreed to. In fact, it is estimated that up to 15% of authorized sellers are violating MAP at any given time. The second group is made up of unauthorized sellers. This group is far more problematic. Indeed, one study shows that over half of unauthorized sellers violate MAP in their online sales.
Monitoring software is a good start but…
There are many companies out there that offer MAP monitoring services. Undoubtedly, these applications have utility. They will scan the universe of online sales and notify a manufacturer any time a MAP violation is identified. This is a particularly useful tool for dealing with authorized retailers who are disregarding MAP policies.
Once identified, authorized sellers can be dealt with efficiently. Because they are part of the manufacturer’s authorized network, the manufacturer will presumably have full contact information for that seller. They can quickly be contacted and told to stop violating the policy. If they do not, they can be kicked out of the network all together.
But Amazon MAP enforcement concepts break down entirely when the seller is unknown to the brand: often, we find that for a given brand, more then 80% of the MAP violators are unknown, and unauthorized to sell. Unauthorized sellers are notorious for operating virtual storefronts in marketplaces like Amazon under fictitious business names. Although Amazon, eBay and some of the other markets offer messaging platforms for communicating with sellers, illicit sellers will rarely respond to these electronic cease and desist demands (“EC&D Demands”). Without further contact information for these MAP violators, they are nearly impossible to stop if monitoring software is the only tool in your Amazon MAP enforcement toolkit.
Full Amazon MAP enforcement must go beyond monitoring
So, what are manufacturers to do when their monitoring efforts reveal unauthorized sellers? First, understand that in many cases, these sellers are highly sophisticated. They know they’re violating MAP, diverting sales from authorized retailers, and harming your brand. They intentionally set their businesses up to avoid being stopped. Consequently, the only logical next step is to turn to professional E-enforcement teams.
E-enforcement professionals have the experience and know-how to root out unauthorized sellers and the tools and strategies to stop them. The process still begins with monitoring. MAP violations can be identified using software solutions and an initial EC&D Demand will be sent. After that, however, enforcement becomes much more refined.
Seasoned E-enforcers have large databases of information pertaining to illicit sellers. Among other things, they keep data on storefront names, selling tactics, and modus operandi. Through the years, they have also already identified many of these fraudsters, so they may be able to use those databases to identify the real people behind the fictitious business names. Even those cons who are not already in the databases are not safe, however. E-enforcement teams also use law enforcement tools and procedures to identify and find previously unidentified sellers.
Once identified, unauthorized sellers can be contacted directly. Hard copies of cease and desist demands can be sent directly to their homes or places of business. The more experienced of these sellers almost always respond by raising bogus legal theories. The best E-enforcers have the know-how to fend off those theories.
If the unauthorized seller persists, your E-enforcement team will put you in contact with their network of legal professionals to initiate legal processes. First, a draft Federal Court complaint will be sent to the seller, notifying them that they have three days to cease and desist before the complaint is filed. This is often the step that puts even the most notorious sellers to rest.
Although that tactic regularly puts a stop to the unauthorized sales, its strength can be leveraged in other ways. For example, in order to avoid the filing of a lawsuit, sellers will usually reveal the source of the products they are advertising below MAP. That allows manufacturers to halt the process at a much higher level and may have the ancillary effect of snuffing out multiple online sellers who were obtaining products from the same source.
Amazon MAP enforcement strategies are crucial for ensuring a company’s MAP policies are kept intact. If you have questions about Amazon MAP enforcement, contact the E-Enforce™ team at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at (800) 892-0450. You can follow us at e-enforceCIS@twitter.com, Ecommerce Enforcement Group on Linkedin and E-Enforcement.com/services.