Flames of War
FLAMES OF WAR / TEAM YANKEE / GALE FORCE NINE
Battlefront / Flames of War / Aetherworks - indirect price fixing and anticompetitive behaviour.
We are posting this message here so you understand why we do not sell Battlefront Miniatures / Flames of War products anymore, and the anticompetitive nature of Battlefront as a manufacturer and the Australian distributor ASTROLABE 1 PTY LTD - ABN 81 168 058 562 trading as Aetherworks.
This message is a waste of our time. We would prefer to focus on running our business rather than dealing with these kinds of situations. It's a waste of your time having to read an explanation as to why you can't buy Battlefront Miniatures products on our website. The short version: We have a bricks-and-mortars store that was being supplied by Battlefront. After their partnership with Aetherworks, we were cut off. We tried to restore our supply on numerous occasions. We were told we didn't comply with terms and conditions. Then we were ignored. Then, via direct intervention by Battlefront Miniatures, we were completely cut off from independent international distributors. This has nothing to do with terms and conditions, or pricing, or how we operate our business: Aetherworks simply does not want to compete with us, or anybody who may threaten their dominance in the Australian market for Battlefront Miniatures / Flames of War / Team Yankee / Gales Force Nine.
Below is the complete account of the last few months which has led to a very disappointing situation which sadly impacts you, the customers, the most.
When we opened our warehouse in October 2013 we were supplied directly by Battlefront in New Zealand. Our account was in good standing and we never breached any terms and conditions they set.
In April 2014 Battlefront Miniatures and Aetherworks formed an agreement where Aetherworks would be given exclusive distribution for Battlefront Miniatures products in Australia and New Zealand. Despite an email sent to us by the owner/s of Battlefront Miniatures advising the partnership and that everything would be fine, we were immediately cut off.
We want to sell Battlefront Miniatures / Flames of War products. We have emailed Aetherworks on numerous occasions with no response. I have called Paul from Aetherworks to express our interest in stocking Battlefront Miniatures products. He advised us he would get back to us but nothing was received. At a convention in January 2016 I spoke to Paul from Aetherworks in person and again expressed my interest in stocking the Battlefront Miniatures / Flames of War range. Paul gave no reason as to why he would not supply us other than that "he would not deal with us". I explained to Paul that we met all the terms and conditions stated on his website and that we had previously held a direct account with Battlefront Miniatures, but he refused and would only say "he would not deal with us"
On 26 March 2016, after numerous failed attempts to deal with the Australian distributor of Battlefront Miniatures products, we emailed Battlefront Miniatures directly with some hope of working something out.
For complete transparency of the situation, here is an account of our correspondence since then:
My email to Battlefront Miniatures - 26th March 2016
Dear John-Paul, hope you are well.
It was good speaking with you at Gencon. Shame we didn’t get an opportunity to catch up with you at Cancon, hopefully next time.
Wanted to touch base as we have some concerns regarding the current Australian distribution model. Since Aetherworks has become the exclusive distributor, we have been unable to source product locally. We have made numerous attempts to source stock from Paul and have received no response. Our last attempt was face-to-face with Paul at Cancon, where he plainly told us he would not do business with us, and would give no further explanation. We meet every criteria listed in his terms and conditions of supply, and including conditions that he doesn’t even meet. Aetherworks does not have a bricks and mortar store, yet sells directly to the public online and supplies internet-only stores.
Up until Aetherworks took over, we held an account with Battlefront Miniatures. We have the largest bricks and mortar and internet store in Australia specialising in tabletop wargaming. The Combat Company, our retail branch, we have over 9000 customers across the Asia Pacific region. We have fought hard to establish a solid reputation for our customer service, extensive ranges, stock quantity and fast turnaround.
We want to sell your products, but at the moment we can’t buy them locally. We’re hoping by contacting you, you can supply us directly.
We have tried, on multiple occasions, to deal with Aetherworks. Our next step will involve seeking legal advice against Aetherworks for denying supply of a product when we meet his account conditions. I’m sure you would agree, it shouldn’t need to get to that point.
If there is a way to buy the product from Aetherworks, we would like your assurance that prices are in no way inflated by them, or stock withheld from us. We require supply of the entire range at the distribution price available to all.
Response from Battlefront Miniatures - 28th March 2016
This clearly needs to be addressed so give me this week to dig into this and find out what is going on and either myself or my GM John Mathews will be on touch directly to follow up with you.
Our second email to Battlefront Miniatures - 7th April 2016
I am just following up on your email from last week.
Sorry, I am not trying to push you. I am not in any rush here as we have end of financial year coming up soon. But I would like to try and seek a resolution to this before we move into the new financial year.
Hope to hear from you soon.
Response from Battlefront Miniatures - 7th April 2016
I have just got back from a week long show in Chicago so apologies for not being in touch sooner. I have got to the bottom of the issue and been told that the sticking point here is that our terms of trading seem to be a problem.
Unlike many companies who had issues with online sellers we have always dealt with them the same way and have a clause in our terms limiting the extra discount they can offer. This applies to stores as well so is not discriminatory at all just the terms we have had for the last twelve years. Being one of the few, if not the only one, who has managed to police this and not have our ranges devalued by discount wars we see this as a fundamental part of the relationship.
Paul has I believe explained this to you and it is your refusal to accept our terms that seems to be the issue. Paul is bound by those terms under our agreement and cannot violate our global policy or risk jepardising his deal so I hope you understand why we are where we are. I am not sure why adhering to our terms is an issue but if that can be resolved you will be able to buy stock without any issue.
Let me know how you want to progress as I do feel this is easily solved.
My email to Battlefront Miniatures - 7th April 2016
I will comply with the discount requirements and your Terms and Conditions. We did before and we will again.
I also comply with all of Aetherworks terms and conditions that he lists on his website.
I find your email really odd. If you are being told that I refuse to comply with the terms, you are being lied to.
Paul has never had any discussion with me regarding the Battlefront range. I told him two times over the phone, once in an email and once face to face at CanCon that I wanted to stock the Battlefront Range and he said he wouldn’t supply me. He gave no reason why and said nothing about discounting.
I fully understand what you mean about discounting. I had an account in good standing with Battlefront before Aetherworks took over and I didn’t discount beyond the limits then. Why would I now? I do discount products and I do that within the limits as set out by the manufacturer.
We are not blind, I am fully aware that Aetherworks doesn’t like us and wants to keep us away from your range. We run a much larger, more profitable and successful company than he does, so we understand why he keeps this attitude towards us. I know this has nothing to do with discounting but is more to do with market supply.
I have attached the terms I agreed to when I started selling Battlefront products. I have a screenshot with Aetherworks terms. I have also attached the email I received from you advising of the Battlefront partnership with Aetherworks and inviting us to purchase product from him. I also have kept every single email form Mark, Rob, and anybody at Battlefront. I have cc’d Paul on this email so we are all on the same page and included the email I sent him last year regarding Battlefront products, to which I received no response.
I just want to buy and sell your products to my customers. By refusing to supply our company when we clearly meet and accept the terms, and have complied successfully with your terms previously, would be in breach of Australian fair trading laws.
I will comply with the discount requirements and your Terms and Conditions. Let’s move forward now.
Response from Battlefront Miniatures - 8th April 2016
Thank you for the quick reply and added information. I am working from what I have been told and clearly need to dig some more into this tomorrow.
Did you mean to copy Aetherworks on your reply to me?
We emailed them again to follow up but that was the last email we received from Battlefront Miniatures.
We have investigated Australian Trading laws and this falls into a grey area. We were trading successfully with Battlefront Miniatures beforehand and were told at the start of the Battlefront Miniatures/Aetherworks partnership we would be supplied into the future. However Aetherworks can pick and choose who he deals with.
We then stopped pursuing any form of trade with Aetherworks or Battlefront Miniatures directly and searched for their products elsewhere. We deal with some fantastic companies all over the world and it wasn't long before we found a supply of Battlefront Miniatures products elsewhere. On 24 August 2016 we received an email from a supplier.
Email from an international supplier - 24th August 2016
On Battlefront -- a bit of bad news. They do not want me to sell Battlefront to you -- the Australia distributor is making a stink. I will set this last bit up and cover any backorders you have, but I cannot send any more items.
This is our current situation: We have met the terms and dealt with Battlefront Miniatures directly in the past but because the Australian distributor won't trade with us without good reason. We are unable to supply Battlefront Miniatures / Flames of War / Team Yankee / Gale Force Nine. Battlefront Miniatures sides with its Australian distributor, again, without good reason.
If a company (Battlefront Miniatures) and its exclusive distributor (Aetherworks) go to this much trouble to keep us out of the market then we won't pursue stocking the range from here on, but we will make what happened public so that you, the customers, understand how the industry operates: anticompetitive deals disguised as terms and conditions to 'protect customers' , which, in reality, reinforces their strangehold on the Australian market, already disadvantaged by a weak Australian dollar and the tyranny of distance. Our ability to stock the product in volume and supply customers in a timely fashion with excellent customer service, would threaten Aetherwork's standard operating procedure - control of supply, hiked prices, limited stock, limited resellers.
I dislike airing dirty laundry. We just want to trade fairly and on the same terms as everybody else. But when a problem is openly acknowledged by the manufacturer, and fails to be addressed time and time again, then ignored altogether for convenience, we want to stand up and make it clear that this is price fixing (indirect or direct), unfair and anticompetitive.
By not allowing us to sell the product, regardless of whether or not we discount, within or without the terms and conditions, Paul is able to ensure he benefits. He does not have competition. You have no other choice in Australia except to buy it through him or one of the stores he chooses to supply. Therefore, he has total control over the price you pay, how much profit he makes from that, how much product enters Australia and when you will receive it.
A recurring theme in this story is our apparently lack of compliance with terms and conditions. Below is the screenshot from Aetherworks' online store. We meet all the terms listed.
Below are Battlefronts' wholesale terms and conditions. We meet all of these too.
Battlefront Miniatures Limited
Standard Terms of Trading
• Retailers are given a 40% discount from Battlefronts recommended retail price as used on our web site.
• Battlefront deals direct to bricks and mortar retailers only. We do not sell to web stores.
• Payments must be made up front for all goods.
• Payments can be made by either credit card or deposited direct into our bank account. Orders will not be released until payment is received. Upon becoming an account with us you can request the bank details from us if you decide to pay in that method.
• After trading for no less than 3 months you will be able to request credit terms of 30-days from date of invoice.
• Terms will remain whilst all payments are made on time. Failure to do so will result in a loss of credit terms.
• Please note we charge a 2% administration fee on all credit card transactions.
• Product remains property of Battlefront Miniatures until full payment is received.
Battlefront will pay freight for orders over:
• AU $600.00
• We ship order to Australia every week.
• We aim to ship all orders 100% complete.
• Orders can be sent to us at any time Saturday – Thursday and will be shipped on Friday afternoon.
• All orders need to be placed using our Excel order form or over the phone with a sales person. (Fax orders not accepted)
• We do not operate a back order system. Orders either wait for missing items or have them removed from the order.
• We have between two – four New Release periods each month.
• New release information is shared through our weekly newsletter and website.
• All Accounts will receive an email detailing the releases for each release week and updated ordering form.
• New release product must not be on sold prior to its official release date.
• New release items can be ordered from the week before the release date.
• Our website has a retailer resources section for you to download and use promotional material for advertising, images of the latest releases and hobby material for in store gaming.
• We are always eager to help support any hobby activities so if you need our help for anything from some advice to tournament prizes just get in touch with customer services and we will help you out in whatever way we can.
• In the event of an item being returned by a customer to a store the following procedure should be followed;
The store should provide customer services with the customers contact details along with the code of the product and what item was missing/damaged. Customer services will then replace the items direct to the customer and the store will be informed by customer service that the customer’s replacement has been sent.
• In the event of a consignment being damaged in transit the following procedure should be followed;
You must make a clear note on the delivery paperwork that damage has occurred before accepting the delivery. Ensure the warehouse receives the information about the damage within 48 hours. We will then replace components free of charge and then follow up with a claim with our shipping agent.
• In the event of an error in shipping the following procedure should be followed;
Ensure customer services’ receives the information on the error within 24 hours of delivery so we can then arrange a credit or replacement.
• Battlefront Miniatures Ltd will not accept returns without prior written arrangement. Product sent without said arrangement will be sent back to you and you will be charged for any associated shipping costs.
• If a return is authorized then it will be sent back at the cost of the store in question.
• A 10% restocking fee will be charged against the value of goods returned.
• Battlefront Miniatures reserves the right to return any unsalable product back to the store. This includes discontinued product as well as damaged or price stickered products.
• We will only sell to “brick and Mortar” based retail Stores and will not sell to online traders (E-Stores). However if you own a physical retail store and run a website with an online store then you may sell through your online store. We ask that you refrain from discounting by more than 10% as this leads to devaluing the product.
By trading with Battlefront Miniatures Ltd you are accepting our terms.
Please sign below if you agree to these terms and conditions.
We comply with all terms and conditions as set out by Aetherworks and Battlefront Miniatures. We know that Aetherworks does not comply with their own terms and conditions, in particular, the supply of website businesses without bricks-and-mortar shopfronts, including their own retail website which has no advertised bricks-and-mortar shopfront.
We are disappointed in the outcome of this story. We share this information with you so you are fully informed when you next decide to purchase Battlefront Miniatures from Aetherworks or any other store in Australia or New Zealand in the future.