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Marla Briscoe, VP at AGMA

by Stuart Wilson, Friday 12 September 2008

Marla Briscoe, VP at the Alliance for Grey Market and Counterfeit Abatement (AGMA) responds to an earlier Channel EMEA comment piece by Channel Exeprts’ Francis Tchertoff, entitiled ’The grey market issue: ’See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’.

The Alliance for Grey Market and Counterfeit Abatement: What is it and Why was it formed? by Marla Briscoe

AGMA (the Alliance for Grey Market and Counterfeit Abatement) is a coalition comprised of leading technology companies committed to addressing the global impact of grey market fraud and counterfeiting of products in the IT Industry.

AGMA members seek to mitigate the impact of grey market fraud and counterfeiting of IT products in the industry, including customers, channel partners and OEMs. The primary focus is on sharing and developing best practices for effectively rendering these activities more difficult, undesirable and unprofitable.

History of AGMA

In 2000, several IT companies got together to discuss the effects of the grey market on the industry. These founding member companies had individually noticed major issues arising with customers and channel partners, and tracked these issues back to the unauthorised resale channel or the grey market. Companies recognised that certain of their own practices and those of their channel partners were contributing to an influx of goods in the grey market.

Additionally, buying practices of end customers were also a contributing factor. Further findings also revealed that certain entities were utilising fraud and misrepresentation to gain access to special pricing and to circumvent controls established by OEM companies. Further, once these entities were able to source discounted goods, IT companies lost the ability to control the global movement of their own products through these non-compliant and/or unauthorised channels.

As a result of individual company efforts, they made a decision to form an alliance with its main focus being developing an understanding of how the grey market works, what the root causes are leading to grey market leakage, and how to address these root causes. In 2001, AGMA was formed.

Growth of AGMA

Initially, AGMA focused its attention on grey market fraud: its causes and impacts, and best practices to curtail it. As AGMA membership grew, the global channel networks changed. AGMA realised more counterfeits were now entering the marketplace and being sold through traditional grey market channels.

This was very concerning to AGMA members, and the decision was made to broaden AGMA’s mission to a comprehensive brand protection mission. Necessarily, brand protection includes addressing the entry of pure counterfeits and different variations of counterfeits, piracy and software license breaches, as well as grey market fraud.

Since AGMA had already developed brand awareness about the existence and mission of AGMA with the AGMA acronym, the decision was made to keep the acronym, but change the formal name to be more reflective of the new mission.

AGMA Achieving its Goals

Today, AGMA continues to drive their high level goals consistent with the broader mission. These goals include continually educating the industry, enhancing brand confidence and the customer experience, and reducing the illegal activity associated with grey marketing, counterfeiting and fraud.

Clearly, instilling a working understanding of the issues is critical to adoption of suggested changes to current buying and selling practices. This includes initiatives to raise awareness of the impacts of grey market fraud, counterfeiting or piracy on OEMs, end customers, and channel partners. In addition, it is important to educate those entities and individuals participating in illegal activity, such as counterfeiting, fraud or piracy of the personal risks and the dedication of IT OEM manufacturers to protect their legal interests and their brand.

Such initiatives include publicising key news on brand protection, sponsoring white papers that cover these topics, hosting breakfast briefings and panel discussions on brand protection related matters, and positioning AGMA as an expert resource for brand protection focus areas.

The enhancement of brand confidence and the customer experience, as well as other brand protection matters depend upon the individual manufacturer companies. Each company must decide how best to assess the issues that plague their company and develop a strategic plan for taking action. AGMA’s role is to present to AGMA members the strategic ideas for addressing key brand protection issues, introducing members to vendors and their ideas for controlling and/or mitigating grey market fraud, counterfeiting and piracy.

In addition, AGMA drives forth the development of best practices that an individual OEM could employ in the course of preparing its own strategic plan.

In the end, it is the efforts of the AGMA members that drive the initiative toward a healthier channel, but AGMA members are dependent upon their channel partners and customers to buy and sell in a manner that is consistent with the protection of the brand and of the end users who seek to purchase IT products.

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