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Mamradpivo's avatar

How can we protect our brand?

Asked by Mamradpivo (9618 points ) April 9th, 2010

So, I work in sales for a small company in the outdoor industry. We try very hard to protect our authorized retailers. One of the ways we do this is by not selling to anyone who sells our products on EBay. We’ve stopped our relationships with several rogue dealers for this.

I recently became aware of a new Ebay seller offering brand new products on EBay for 10–20% less than our MSRP and MAP price. They had no contact info or website, so I assumed it was another rogue dealer, but their other items for sale didn’t match. I contacted them through Ebay and learned it was just one person who collected coupons for online retailers, then used the coupons to buy things online for less than retail. They charge shipping on their Ebay sales, but get free shipping from my authorized retailer (who of course has no idea). So it’s a complicated scheme so that my retailer drop ships to their customers and someone else profits.

This is appalling to me on a lot of levels. It undercuts my authorized dealers who are legitimate businesses with overhead. It cheapens the brand. And it opens up a lot of liability issues. For instance, who is responsible for a warranty claim? Who is responsible if a package is damaged in shipping?

I’ve contacted my retailer but I’m at a loss for how to address this with the Ebayer. I don’t think they think there’s anything wrong with what they’re doing, but it’s caused a lot of heartburn on my end. We need to control our sales channels because our products are fairly specialized.

Does anyone know of some resources I can tap into? Is there a forum for manufacturers selling online? We belong to quite a few trade groups, but nobody has a forum. Have you dealt with something like this? If so, how did you handle it?

I’m all ears, hoping for some expert Fluther advice.

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5 Answers

rahm_sahriv's avatar

Personally, I say good for them. If the product wasn’t stolen off the back of the truck, then any other way that makes a product cheaper for the customers is a good thing.

bobloblaw's avatar

Honestly, you’ve got a lot of questions that a lawyer could answer. As a business issue, you’re going to have to view unauthorized retailers as a cost of doing business. You can try to prevent unauthorized retailers from selling, but, ultimately, you may end up losing more money trying to do that. I’d start with consulting those trade groups you’re a part of and see what approaches they may have.

LuckyGuy's avatar

At least they were selling your product. Wait a few months for the Chinese knock-offs to appear. Then you really will have problems.
(If you had the product made in China, you can shorten the wait time.)

Silence04's avatar

At a previous job I had we faced the same issues with our consumer products being sold on eBay. We launched a campaign using scare tactics showcasing all the down sides of buying from eBay and such…

drClaw's avatar

Well if you are offering coupons then it should be written into the fine print of each coupon that they are meant for individual use and that unauthorized commercial use is prohibited. If you add this to the coupons then all you need at that point is to send a cease and desist to the eBay seller, at which point if they choose to ignore you you can go direct to eBay who will likely suspend their account.

All that said it really isn’t bad for your brand if your product is getting resold by a couple “rouge” sellers. In fact it could be viewed as an increase in demand for your product.

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