Why MAP Pricing Enforcement?
In the online retail space, there will always be sellers violating your MAP policies. The question that arises is ‘Why does my brand need MAP Pricing Enforcement?’ The answer is simple, without MAP enforcement brand violations will continue to increase and brand perception will plummet. The enforcement of your minimum advertised price is a vital part of an effective Amazon brand protection strategy. Remember, your brand and its image are what your customers trust and rely on. Pricing violators negatively affect this image. Furthermore, they cause a reduction in sales and thus revenue. In a related article titled “Brand Violators & Unauthorized Sellers: A Preventative Approach“, we discussed how to help prevent violators. This article is a guide to MAP pricing compliance and will detail steps to take once violations have occurred.
Graduated Electronic Cease & Desist Letters
The first step in MAP pricing enforcement should always be an electronic cease & desist notice. Send these notices via the Amazon Marketplace. If it is for an authorized distributor then send via a direct email instead. This should be a three-step graduated process with each letter getting more aggressive. This MAP enforcement technique alone is enough to remove a large number of violators. These are usually the sellers who are violating by accident or are just testing the waters.
Online Investigation Tools & Techniques
If the cease & desist notices are ignored, the next step towards MAP pricing compliance is investigative. Basic research should be performed to find out who these violators are and what category they fall into. Common techniques used are searching Google or other e-commerce marketplaces. Browsing other products and brands they sell and judging if they violate across the board or just on one listing is also helpful. This type of research is where a detailed CRM/EDI log of offenders can help in determining who your repeat violators are. Organizing your violator data is a huge step toward MAP pricing enforcement.
Savvy sellers often keep their internet footprint wiped completely clean. In this case, a test buy is crucial. Serialization can help identify anonymous violators. Due to this, the leak in the supply chain can be identified. Now the MAP pricing compliance issue can be communicated to the appropriate distributor. Unique serialization is what makes this tactic dependable. The product’s serialization can help to pinpoint the original distributor of the product. If serialization is not in place or is not yet an option, the following steps are even more important to your Amazon brand protection strategy.
Copyright & Trademark Complaints
We find that this method is the most successful at suspending or red flagging Amazon accounts. Amazon does not interfere with MAP violations. Nor do they interfere with breach of contract complaints between brands and sellers. However, Amazon is very serious about enforcing copyright and trademark violations due to past lawsuits. A carefully crafted copyright or trademark complaint can be the best way to force MAP pricing compliance upon a violating seller. These sellers must then open a new account. Because of this, they lose their rankings, reviews, revenue and valuable time setting up a new account. In some cases, they abandon selling the brand altogether.
Physical Cease and Desists/Legal Threats
We acquire the unauthorized seller’s physical address via the research and test buying process. With this info, we can now mail out a physical cease & desist letter. Certified mail with signature required is how the letters should be sent. Receiving this letter is a red flag for the seller and informs them of two things. First, that we know who they are. Many sellers will cease selling at this point because their anonymity has been removed. And secondly, that the brand will pursue further legal action if the products are not removed from the Amazon marketplace. In addition, a slightly more aggressive tactic is to send out a fully typed pre-summons letter via certified mail with signature required.
Termination of Distributor Agreements
The cornerstone of your Amazon brand protection strategy is your distributor agreement. Because of this, you should terminate the distribution agreement of any distributor found to be in direct violation of the terms of the agreement and refuses to stop. If correct verbiage was used in your agreement from the beginning, not only is your termination valid but you also open the door to sue the distributor for breach of contract.
Civil or Criminal Lawsuit
With a proper distribution agreement, the stage has been set for a potentially successful civil lawsuit for breach of contract. If you find that some unauthorized sellers are manually removing serial numbers from the product and identify them, then a criminal lawsuit for product tampering is also on the table. Unfortunately, Brand Alignment does not offer this type of legal service and we recommend hiring legal counsel for assistance in this area.
Demand MAP Pricing Compliance and Achieve Your Amazon Brand Protection Goals
In review, sellers that are violating your brand’s pricing policies are not going to stop on their own. Strategic, graduated and well-documented actions need to be taken to effectively enforce these policies. With consistent MAP pricing enforcement and continuous monitoring, sellers think twice before violating your brand’s MAP policy. Furthermore, this steady monitoring and enforcement of your brand will prevent violators from getting comfortable. Effectively accomplishing this task on a consistent basis will take a lot of time, tie up valuable resources and cost you money. Brand Alignment is here to help with Amazon brand protection solutions tailored to your brand’s specific needs. Combine our 24/7 MAP monitoring and reporting dashboard and MAP pricing enforcement services for the one-two punch needed to protect your brand on Amazon.
The techniques detailed above will be extremely helpful in demanding MAP pricing compliance once a violation has occurred. However, a preventative approach can greatly reduce the need for these MAP enforcement techniques. Check out our related post “Brand Violators & Unauthorized Sellers: A Preventative Approach” for more information on this.