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Plantronics Settles Grey Market Case

Plantronics has reached a settlement agreement in a dispute with UK reseller James Products Limited, also known as JPL. The dispute concerned what the vendor called ‘the illegal importation and sale of non-European Plantronics headsets’. In essence Plantronics said these goods were not authorised for sale in Europe.

The case was settled before any court proceedings were issued, with JPL revealing its supplier and customers for these products, surrendering products still in its possession and agreeing to pay a substantial sum to Plantronics.

“We want to make it clear to those who deal in unauthorised Plantronics goods that it doesn’t pay to take the risks of doing so” [Paul Dunne, Head of UK & Ireland Channels], Plantronics, commented: “Our robust stance on illegal product sales demonstrates that we remain committed to our Channel community, and will continue to support their sales and marketing efforts through our Global Partner Programme – CONNECT.”

Plantronics says this is part of a wider programme of legal activity to ‘ensure that European customers are being supplied with high quality, genuine and European-authorised Plantronics products’. The company says that in a case involving similar products, legal proceedings were recently issued against another UK reseller, Digiphone Limited and there may be more court actions to follow.

Following the settlement, James Clarke, Group Director at JPL made this statement:

“Over the last few months Plantronics have bought to our attention a situation that amounts to parallel trading by our business JPL Ltd.

At the time one of our buyers has sourced original Plantronics headsets at lower prices than the main channel Distributors in the UK. This allowed JPL to apply a small margin and sell on at competitive prices through a select reseller channel. It now transpires that through the laws of trade mark protections these products although original Plantronics did not have the trade mark owner’s permission and should not have been put on sale in the EEA which includes the UK. JPL would like to apologise unreservedly to any customer or channel partner affected as we had no intention of misleading as we believed at the time these product were to full EEA standard.

The product in question is manufactured by Plantronics, however we now learn that somewhere in the supply channel we have to accept there was either a label swop out and or an over label to the original which had been tampered with as this headset was not intended for the UK market. The headset and packaging at all times remained original Plantronics.

This was an oversight by JPL Ltd, and we have reached an amicable out of court settlement with Plantronics UK, however going forward we will unfortunately no longer be supplying alternative headsets to our own.

At the time a number of our resellers had requested our assistance in sourcing headsets that represented a similar margin opportunity to them as our own range of JPL products (typically 30%+) and we believed we were offering our customers an ethically sourced alternative product for their end users who wanted to stay with their incumbent headset manufacturer in this case Plantronics.

We would like to point out that this was only a small part to the overall JPL business (last year we owned around 22% of the UK Call Centre market), and we will continue to support our reseller channel in exactly the same way as they have come to expect but with our own products only.

We have a number of exciting new products in development for 2016, as well as some unique headsets only available from JPL such as the Element TT3 Modular Headset System which has a unique system that allows you to convert from single ear (mono) use, to binaural (dual) ear, or vice versa, by simply ‘popping out’ the microphone and speaker housing and clicking it into the appropriate headband. This product is currently available exclusively through the Availle brand.”

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine