What is Map Pricing and is it Legal?

Posted by Philip Huthwaite on September 27, 2023
Philip Huthwaite
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Have you ever wondered why certain products never seem to drop below a specific price point online, even during sales? It's the same reason why some brands maintain consistent pricing across multiple retailers: MAP pricing.

MAP pricing, or Minimum Advertised Price policy, is when a manufacturer establishes the lowest price that a retailer can advertise for its products. This means that even if the retailer wanted to offer an incredibly low sale price, they wouldn't be able to advertise it as so – instead opting for something like "20% off MSRP!"


As one of the prevalent pricing tactics, MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) plays a pivotal role in ensuring fair competition and safeguarding the perceived value of products in the digital marketplace.

At BlackCurve, we know that navigating pricing policies can be confusing. So, let’s take a closer look at the topic of MAP and understand how it impacts the retail landscape.


MAP Pricing Definition

Ever stumbled upon a product online with a note indicating "Add to cart to see price" or "Call for pricing"? These tactics often arise due to MAP policies. However, before diving into the depths of its implications and nuances, it's essential to get a grasp of the fundamental concept.

MAP, or Minimum Advertised Price, refers to a seller's agreement with a manufacturer or supplier that dictates the lowest price they can advertise a product for sale.

It's crucial to understand that MAP doesn’t necessarily define the final sale price – retailers can sell a product below the MAP but cannot advertise or display it below the agreed-upon price. This practice ensures that products maintain a consistent value across multiple platforms, preventing price wars that can devalue brands and products.

But you may ask, what's in it for retailers and manufacturers? For brands, it preserves their image and prevents their products from being associated with cheap or discounted prices. Retailers, on the other hand, benefit from a level playing field where competitors can't undercut each other drastically, ensuring profitability for all.


Is MAP Pricing Enforced Everywhere?

Like many pricing strategies, MAP policies and implementations aren't universal. While prevalent in countries like the United States, the rules and legalities surrounding MAP pricing can differ significantly across regions.

In the UK, for instance, the landscape is slightly different. Competition laws are stringent, and any practice that may hinder competition can be under scrutiny.

With eCommerce transcending borders, understanding regional MAP differences becomes even more critical. The key is to strike a balance - adhering to MAP policies where they're enforceable while being competitive in markets where they aren’t.


Is MAP Pricing Legal in the UK?

When we look specifically at the UK market, MAP pricing enters a grey area. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) – the UK's primary competition and consumer authority – has stringent views on practices that could be seen as restricting competition.

Under UK competition law, agreements between suppliers and retailers that fix prices can be considered anti-competitive and illegal. However, MAP policies don't exactly set the selling price; they determine the advertised price. This distinction is vital.


Yet, sellers must tread carefully. If a MAP policy is seen as having the effect of setting a minimum resale price, then it could fall foul of the law. It's always advisable for businesses to consult legal experts when drafting or adhering to MAP agreements in the UK.


Global Perspectives on MAP

Beyond the UK, MAP policies have varying degrees of acceptance. In the US, for instance, MAP pricing is legal as long as it doesn't breach antitrust laws. Brands can establish MAP policies and enforce them by withholding supplies or support from non-compliant retailers.

However, in some regions, MAP policies are more strictly regulated or even prohibited. eCommerce retailers operating in multiple markets must be particularly vigilant, ensuring that their pricing strategies conform to the laws of each specific jurisdiction.


Benefits of MAP Pricing for Retailers and Consumers

Ensuring that products are priced right in eCommerce can make all the difference. This partly explains why MAP pricing has become popular among brands and manufacturers


Brand Value Maintenance

One of the primary benefits for retailers is the assurance that the brand's value remains intact.

When products are consistently priced across all platforms, it reduces the risk of brand degradation. A discounted brand can lose its perceived value, making it harder for retailers to sell at profitable margins.

Consumers can trust in the quality and value of the product within a MAP pricing structure, making them more likely to purchase.


Fair Market Competition

MAP ensures that retailers can compete on factors other than just price, such as service quality, delivery speed, and customer support. It prevents larger retailers with more significant purchasing power from undercutting smaller ones, ensuring a more level playing field.

A fair market competition also means that consumers won't see massive price wars that could potentially destabilise their favourite retailers. Instead, they'll witness competition based on service quality and other value-adds.


Consistent Customer Experience

Consistency in pricing ensures that retailers can focus on enhancing the overall customer experience without constantly altering their pricing strategies to compete. This can lead to more reliable profit margins and forecasting.


Consumers may enjoy not needing to hop from one retailer to another in search of the best deal, knowing that the price remains the same. This stability enhances the shopping experience and saves time.


Drawbacks of MAP Pricing

Consumer Perception of Price Rigidity

Retailers might find that some customers, particularly those used to hunting for deals, may view stable prices as inflexible or uncompetitive.

However, consumers who love a good bargain might feel that MAP restricts their ability to find products at discounted rates, leading to potential dissatisfaction.


Potential for Retailers to Perceive it as Restrictive

While MAP maintains brand value, some retailers might feel boxed in, especially if they wish to use price as a competitive tool. This can be particularly limiting during sales or promotional periods.

A retailer's inability to offer promotional prices might reduce the avenues for consumers to access deals, potentially leading them to explore brands that don't enforce MAP.


The Role of Digital Pricing Tools in Navigating MAP Pricing

As the eCommerce landscape grows increasingly complex, retailers seek effective tools to streamline their pricing strategies and ensure compliance with policies like MAP. Digital eCommerce pricing solutions - such as BlackCurve - gives sellers a powerful tool for managing their pricing strategy.


Automated Monitoring

Maintaining MAP compliance requires that you have a constant eye on the market and adjust your pricing accordingly. Digital eCommerce solutions can automate this process, tracking the prices of competitors and adjusting their own price accordingly as needed. This means brands no longer need to manually track competitors' pricing or worry about deviating from MAP policies.



Gaining Data-driven Insights

These tools aggregate vast amounts of data from various sources, providing a comprehensive view of market trends, consumer behaviours, and competitor actions. This data-driven approach empowers retailers to make informed pricing decisions, keeping compliance and competitiveness in mind.


Strategy Flexibility

While MAP determines a price floor, there's often flexibility in how retailers approach pricing above this threshold. Digital tools can suggest optimal pricing strategies that respect MAP while also addressing market demands and maximising profitability. For instance, retailers can adjust prices based on competitor pricing, customer segmentation, geographic location, or any other relevant factor.


Harmonising Various Pricing Strategies

Retailers rarely rely on a single pricing tactic. Digital platforms allow for the integration of MAP considerations with other pricing strategies, creating a cohesive and effective pricing approach that responds to different market situations.

A retailer could combine MAP with promotional pricing, dynamic pricing, and more to create a unified approach. This provides the agility needed to respond quickly and accurately to market fluctuations while maximising profits.


Understand and Navigate eCommerce Pricing with BlackCurve

In eCommerce pricing, understanding the nuances of MAP pricing can give retailers a competitive edge over their competition. By maintaining brand value and ensuring fair market competition, MAP serves as a crucial component in today's digital retail landscape.

However, like any pricing strategy, it comes with its unique set of benefits and challenges. Embracing the right tools and knowledge ensures that retailers not only remain compliant but also effectively manoeuvre in this ever-evolving market.

Curious about how you can optimise your pricing strategy further? BlackCurve is here to help. Engage with our platform to unearth actionable insights, stay updated with the latest in pricing trends, and chart a clear path in your eCommerce journey.

Topics: Pricing Strategy, RRP, MAP Pricing

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