Once I decided a MAP policy was the way to go, I was confronted with an easy-to-predict but difficult-to-answer question: how do I go about starting one? It took some time to work out the steps, but I was able to accomplish it. Instead of making others take the trial-and-error route I did, however, I'm going to lay out the road map right here. I'll be addressing the basics on getting a policy written up, getting resellers on board with the program and enforcing the policy when it comes time to get serious (hopefully, though, enforcement will be a last-resort option).
Step 1: Get a MAP Policy Written
The first step is to have the MAP policy in writing. It's important to keep in mind that the purpose of the MAP policy is to impose a restriction on the minimum price at which a product can be advertised. It's designed to protect brand reputation and keep revenues stable. It's also unilateral on the part of the brand, so there's no need to work with resellers when drafting the policy. There is an outside party to consider enlisting in drafting a policy, though, and that's an attorney. It's important to ensure that the MAP policy is legal, in part because of its aforementioned unilateral nature. When implemented correctly, cases where manufacturers/brands announce their policies in advance and refuse to work with resellers that won't comply are usually on the up and up.
Attorneys who specialize in MAP policies and antitrust laws, however, can give any written policy a more critical eye and ensure there are no errors. Working with an attorney also provides an opportunity to address the particulars of specific industries, as no MAP policy is one size fits all. With policy in hand, it will be time to take stock of all resellers and their contact information for the next step.
Step 2: Notify Sellers of the Pending Policy
The next order of business will be to inform the necessary parties of the policy so that they can adhere to it. Brands should make a list of resellers and inform them of the pending policy, along with a date that enforcement will go into effect. This will give them time to get with the program, adjusting their advertised pricing accordingly. It's also a good idea to inform any distributors of the policy as well, so they can be kept in the loop about coming changes.
Step 3: Let Sellers Know You're Using MAP Monitoring Software
Informing resellers of a coming MAP policy is one thing, but adding incentives to keep them in compliance is generally a wise move. Letting sellers know that MAP monitoring software will be employed to check for violations provides them with an extra reason to follow the policy. Unlike manual monitoring methods, MAP monitoring software automatically scours the internet for potential violations to a policy and alerts brands when one is detected. Knowing that the manufacturer/brand will be diligent about catching those breaking the policy will make resellers think twice about attempting to skirt the rules.
Monitoring also provides the added bonus of signaling to resellers that brands are serious about enforcing the policy. Resellers that are dedicated to following the rules will have an increased level of trust knowing that the brand is doing all it can to catch bad actors.
Step 4: Start Monitoring and Sending Violation Notices
Monitoring violations does no good if those violations aren't addressed. Similar to employing MAP software, logging violations and notifying violators should be an essential step in an enforcement policy designed to inform resellers that the brand is serious.
Sellers that are following the rules will want to know that those that are not are being dealt with, so it's a good idea to keep them in the loop. For resellers that are less than scrupulous, sending violation notices is a way to inform them that running afoul of the MAP policy won't be tolerated.
Sometimes, a single notice is all that is necessary to get resellers to reconsider their course of action and correct their pricing. In other scenarios, follow-up violation notices might be required to get resellers on board. The final notice should plainly state to resellers that further violations will result in their being cut off from selling the brand's products.
Step 5: Cut Sellers Off (If They Don't Comply)
For repeat offenders that don't get the message, the next step is to bar them from listing a brand's products entirely. It pays to be firm here, since negotiating terms with any reseller that doesn't comply opens the door for other resellers to start ignoring the policy altogether and might potentially be used by unscrupulous resellers as grounds to accuse a brand of price fixing.
Since legal action might be necessary to enforce the policy properly, brands should keep very detailed records of violations, noting any and all conversations with resellers about the MAP policy, and work with their attorney to chart the appropriate course of action.
Again, using MAP monitoring software and enlisting the aid of a specialist company to assist with monitoring efforts helps to maintain consistency as well as the detailed reports of violations required should a dispute with a reseller need to be hashed out in the courtroom.