In A Perfect World...
In an ideal marketplace there would be no need for monitoring and enforcing your Brand’s MAP policy. Brand violators and unauthorized sellers simply wouldn’t exist. All Amazon sellers would abide by the guidelines and sales strategies would work as planned. However, this isn’t a perfect world. There will always be brand violators undercutting your minimum advertised price. And unauthorized sellers will always attempt to profit off of your brand’s success. It’s important to stay ahead of these types of sellers. Building a preventative strategy for your Amazon Brand is crucial! This way when brand violators do arrive you’ll be better prepared to handle them and protect your brand.
With this in mind, use the guide below to assess how well protected your brand is on the world largest eCommerce platform. When planning the prevention of brand violators and unauthorized sellers the following areas should be reviewed:
Proper Distribution Agreement Verbiage
Removing brand violators does not start when you find them on Amazon. It starts when your first authorized distributor signs a distribution agreement. Distributors will not respect your agreements if the consequences are not clear. Always be sure to highlight penalties for violating e-commerce sales terms. Sometimes in these cases, legal action ends up being a last resort. To prepare for this, it is important to establish and document the exact penalty for violations of the agreement. Being thorough in your preparation will mitigate many potential violators from the start.
Many companies lack serialization on their individual products. Instead, they go by UPCs as their key identifier. This can severely limit the Brand’s ability to identify leaks in the distribution supply chain. In some cases simply having a unique serial number for each lot or batch will suffice. This allows you to know which distributor the product came from and thus identifying your brand violators. Beyond this, counterfeiting or product tampering can sometimes be a concern. In these cases, we recommend placing two serial numbers on each unit. One in ink and a second one etched on the product or packaging.
CRM Authorized Sellers
You may be surprised at how unorganized the authorized seller database is at many companies. Information needed can be difficult to retrieve if stuffed into messy paper cabinets. We recommend a dependable CRM or EDI solution for your company. This allows you to keep track of each authorized seller, every purchase and trace each serial number. Further, documenting each minimum advertised price incident provides proof of repeat violations. This high-level organization will allow you to discern between honest mistakes and detrimental seller trends.
Correctly Worded Legal Notices
Keep the following in mind in the unfortunate event that you need to send cease and desist letters. There are many rules that govern communications on e-commerce marketplaces that must be followed. With Amazon, simply using the wrong words or making certain threats can result in messages not being sent. It’s important to follow guidelines when sending messages or you risk a temporary account suspension. The same holds true for copyright and trademark violation requests. Therefore, it’s very important to know what words and verbiage are acceptable according to Amazon’s communication guidelines.
Types of Unauthorized Sellers & Brand Violators
It’s important to have specific techniques in place for removing different types of violators. You wouldn’t use a utility knife saw to cut down a tree, would you? Even though it might work eventually there are much better tools. The same goes for removing Amazon listings that are violating your minimum advertised price. A MAP violation can be as simple as a dealer forgetting to remove last months promotion. A MAP violation can also be a predatory Smash and Grab seller. When you know who you are dealing with, you can prepare a proper strategy for removal. See our articles on “Types of Unauthorized Sellers” for more info.
Amazon Seller Account Suspension
Brands often underestimate the severe effect that an Amazon account suspension can have on a MAP violator or unauthorized seller. Certain gated categories have strict regulations and can take months for sellers to be approved. Amazon can ban sellers from these categories after just one valid trademark complaint. They can even go as far as confiscating a seller’s entire inventory. Multiple complaints can result in an account suspension and a 90 day waiting period to receive pending payments. Amazon then forcibly removes the seller’s inventory from FBA warehouses and charges $.50 charge per item. With some sellers carrying 1000’s of items and this charge can be crippling. Due to this, sellers will go to great lengths to avoid account suspension.
Brand Violators & Unauthorized Sellers CAN Be Stopped
There are many steps brands can use to enforce their distribution agreements. Protecting your brand on Amazon is always easiest if these techniques are implemented early on. Some brands don’t realize the problem until it spirals out of control. Its never too late to take back control. An Amazon MAP enforcement firm like Brand Alignment can help ease the burden of dealing with unauthorized sales.
If your Brand is fighting an uphill battle against brand violators or unauthorized sellers you may also want to take a look at the Brand Alignment post entitled “Amazon MAP Enforcement Techniques”
* Note: Brand Alignment does not provide any legal advice and readers of this material should consult with their own lawyer for legal advice.