When the Agent Contract is Broken

Peter : On Rad's Radar?
| Peter Radizeski of RAD-INFO, Inc. talking telecom, Cloud, VoIP, CLEC, and The Channel.

When the Agent Contract is Broken

At the Channel Partners Expo in Vegas last week, I helped man the booth for the newly formed Technology Channel Association, a non-profit agent association that was formed to create a community for best practices, a code of ethics, and solid training of the indirect channel.

Regrettably, the TCA received two separate pleas for help from agents. Both agents were no longer receiving commissions from a carrier.

In one case, the agent was wearing a shirt to advertise the lost commissions. The word I heard was that he had failed to meet quota for a few months. The contract allows for the carrier to discontinue payment for missed quota; almost like you stopped being an agent so we don't have to pay it any more.

I don't know if the agent was warned prior to the checks stopping. Is it a sad state? Absolutely. Is there anything the TCA can do about it? Possibly. We did dialogue with the carrier about the situation and encouraged a resolution.

As a fledgling non-profit with 100 agents, funded at this time only by the dues of our vendors, the TCA is not in a position to take up a dispute like this. This falls under contract law. As far as I can tell, arbitration is not included in my agent agreements, so I don't see how the TCA - or any organization - could help with this kind of dispute.

I realize that agents are hampered by carrier agreements that are heavily weighted in favor of the carrier. (Believe me, I have been on the receiving end of BellSouth not paying me my commissions to the tune of six figures, so I understand the frustration and pain). I also realize that agents that use a master agency don't even get to see the contracts that they are compensated under, which leaves even less room for resolution.  It certainly seems like a good time to change these things. To do that we need the strength of numbers - 100 won't do.

I'm kind of disappointed in the Channel, because the first year of dues was free if you signed up for the TCA at the show. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. But even the two agents with disputes did not join. How does the TCA achieve critical mass if the very agents that want help won't join?

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1 Comment

I have to admit I give the guy credit for the guerrilla "anti-"marketing shirt, but I guess it drives home the need to trust who you're selling for and not just selling for the largest commission check. If your agreement has a quota and you don't live up to it I'm not sure you have a gripe, but if a carrier fails to live up to its end of the bargain I will agree with anyone that it sucks (just not sure what you can do about it other than never do business with them again and feel free to share with "effective" shirts :). That being said, there's a reason we are very selective of who we partner with. We don't do quotas. We have drive and expect the agents and carriers we work with will have drive. If you have that and trust a quota shouldn't be necessary.

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