Comic Publisher Requires Adherence to Minimum Pricing
Do you know what a MAP policy is? A “minimum advertised price” policy requires retailers to avoid advertising a price lower than the producer dictates. They can sell the product for whatever they want, but they can’t tell people about it. Trying to control sale prices can lead to antitrust complaints, but MAP policies are legal because they are seen as trying to protect brand value.
Online shopping has led to price erosion, and brick-and-mortar retailers complain they can’t compete with those who don’t have to maintain physical retail locations. So some companies have begun setting these kinds of policies in an attempt to avoid price erosion.
The first comic publisher to do so is Zenescope, best known for comics that feature fairy-tale women in very small costumes that can’t fully contain their large breasts.
According to ICv2, Zenescope is
limiting the prices at which its products can be advertised online to full retail. Enforcement will be directed initially at companies selling on Amazon and on their own websites.
Zenescope appears to want to prevent discounting, which also means their online store won’t have to compete on price. However, Zenescope’s wording is stronger than usually recommended. Note that they don’t talk about advertising, but about actual selling price. That may put them in jeopardy of violating some state antitrust laws.
A notice was sent to retailers selling Zenescope products online. “Please be advised that if you are reselling our products Amazon you must sell them at our MAP (manufacturers approved pricing),” the notice said. “That price is the retail price printed on our books and the price that we sell products for on our website. We will be enforcing this policy starting immediately and if you are selling products on Amazon below MAP pricing those products will be removed or suspended from sale on the Amazon site.”
This market consulting blog advises “Avoid referring to the word ‘pricing’ in any form of communication.”
Amazon, by the way, is requiring third-party sellers to publish their names and addresses later this year, which is how the publisher can figure out who’s violating their “policy”.