Chinese mobile handset and personal computer maker Lenovo has become the latest company to launch a ‘virtual tirade’ against Indian e-tailers Flipkart and Snapdeal, including Amazon India.

This comes a few months after Japanese camera maker Nikon removed Flipkart and Snapdeal from its authorised sellers list.

Lenovo has issued a warning on its Web site urging consumers not to buy any Lenovo products from these three online marketplaces.

These companies allege that online players are selling their products with heavy discounts, while e-tailers are of the view that online marketplaces are just a selling platform with no control over prices.

Several electronics and consumer durable companies, who have now launched their own Web sites, have been protesting against these online players over “predatory” pricing that hurts margins. Samsung has launched e-store, Lenovo sells through the do store and Toshiba permits online shopping through its Web site.

Market experts feel that as all these companies have started their own e-commerce pages to sell at the actual cover price of the products.

Shailendra Katyal, Director, Consumer Business, Lenovo India, in an official statement, said: “It has come to our notice that some of the online stores and marketplaces are selling Lenovo products at heavily discounted prices. Our observation is that these may not be Lenovo authorised resellers and keeping our end customers’ interest in mind, we have accordingly issued an advisory on our Web site.”

Bangalore-based Flipkart, which is readying itself for more Web-first launches post the success of Moto G, assured that Lenovo products selling on Flipkart.com were genuine and would continue to enjoy the warranty and services extended to all products as always. It had issued a similar statement for Nikon products also.

However, an official at Flipkart said that the company has no comments to offer on the allegations on the pricing issue as it has no control over it but the sellers fix the prices and that all the sellers are authorised. Ditto was Snapdeal and Amazon India’s views.

According to an Amazon India spokesperson, “Sellers are contractually obligated to list genuine products with manufacturer warranty. This applies to all brands.”

These allegations can impact the brand image of e-tailers, who were already facing flak from the online shoppers for reasons ranging from quality to delay in delivery, said an analyst.

The entire episode shows that brands can no longer ignore the presence of online players. “E-tail’s growth, adoption and its impact on their overall business is now making many brands take this channel seriously. This is the onset of the phase when rules will begin to be defined” Pragya Singh (Associate Vice President, Retail), Techonopak Advisory firm said.

(This article was published on February 19, 2014)
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