Stopping Unauthorized MAP Violators in Their Tracks with PROWL
If you’re having problems with minimum advertised price (MAP) violations, taking quick action is important for dealing with the situation. MAP violations pose a serious risk to the value of your brand. You probably know how to resolve these problems with your authorized sellers – simply notify your contact that you’re aware of the price violation and that they must return to compliance with your policy or risk their ability to carry your products. But what about the unauthorized, unknown sellers advertising your brand for less than MAP?
There are three basic steps to take when addressing the problem of unauthorized sellers. These steps assume you already have a defined MAP in place – if not, that is the place to start. Find helpful tips on establishing a MAP policy. With your MAP and dealer agreements solidified, you can tackle unauthorized sellers.
Step 1: Understand the illegal aspects of third-party unauthorized sales. Many manufacturers think there isn’t much to be done about unauthorized sellers: whereas MAP violations from authorized dealers are clearly a breach of your MAP policy, with the unknown sellers there was never an agreement to break in the first place. After all, once you, the trademark owner, sell a product, the buyer can generally legally resell it without any trademark infringements.
However, there are exceptions to this law, such as materials difference, distinction in provision of warranty or customer service, exclusive access to promotions or discounts, and other variations that ultimately mean you are in the right, and the unauthorized seller is not.
The important thing to note here is that the law is on your side if unauthorized sellers are causing damage to your relationship with your trusted dealers in such a way that it compromises your agreements with them. If, for example, unauthorized sellers are driving the price (and therefore, the value) of your brand down so that reputable sellers can no longer support MAP with customer service and overhead costs, you have a legitimate cause for action.
Step 2: Monitor your MAP in real time and catch violators in the act. Monitoring your MAP policy is the only way to catch violators. While watching Amazon and other big name online retail sites is a start, it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. By the time those larger sellers have begun dropping prices below MAP, it’s likely many other smaller sellers, often unknown to you, have started the domino effect.
So how do you go about stopping price cascading before it happens? Easily, with ORIS Intelligence’s SaaS tool, PROWL. By monitoring the entire Web, PROWL finds the smaller, unauthorized sellers who are unafraid to violate your MAP policy. Uncovering these sellers is only the first piece of the puzzle, though: PROWL then, in many cases, helps you nicely connect the dots to determine who the unknown sellers actually are and how to find them.
In your PROWL dashboard, you’ll be able to see the link between parent and child domains and understand connections between larger sellers who may own smaller, less well-known retail sites. You’ll see the age of each site, the number of visitors it receives each month, as well as its Alexa and Google Shopping rank to help you prioritize the violators who pose the most threat to your brand.
For sellers who don’t match up with a larger name, you’ll have access to research tools to make your search for them simple and efficient. Within PROWL, you’ll find Better Business Bureau information on sellers and Whois registration information, as well as easy access to immediate searches for phone numbers and other contact options. On the whole, PROWL users are generally able to identify 80-90% of unknown sellers using our tools.
Step 3: Get customized identification and enforcement for your MAP policy. When you identify unauthorized sellers, PROWL allows you to easily create templates to warn violators through our tool, so that you have a record of all communication. In most cases, this will be enough to stop violators.
If, however, you encounter sellers you simply cannot identify or who refuse to stop violating your policy, PROWL offers a solution to this problem as well. Our partnership with experienced MAP attorneys gives you unique access to help for these escalated enforcement issues. One tact used to identify these problem sellers is that you (or your law firm) might start by purchasing your product from them – now you’ve obtained their shipping information from the package label. From there, PROWL’s partner lawyers can then send a physical cease and desist letter on your behalf, detailing the violation and threatening legal action.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
Without a plan in place to find unauthorized sellers, you’ll always have MAP violations impacting your good partners. To get to the bottom of the issue, you need to find those unauthorized sellers who are willing to drop prices below MAP first and stop them before other dealers follow their lead.
With PROWL, you see violations from across the entire Internet, not just the top retailers or marketplaces, so that you get the bigger picture. Schedule a demo or reach out to your ORIS Intelligence representative today to learn more about how you can effectively use our MAP monitoring and enforcement tool.