The world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., may take legal action against owners of websites that leak its discounted prices for “Black Friday,” the start of the traditional Christmas shopping season in the US.
Prices in these advertisements are “commercially valuable,” and their unauthorized release to the public may result in severe legal penalties, including criminal, according to a letter sent by Wal-Mart counsel Gary J. Rinkerman to Brad Olson, founder of Gottadeal.com. Olson gave a copy of the letter to Bloomberg.
A Wal-Mart store in Niles, Illinois
Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley verified the contents of the letter. He declined toidentify other websites which received them. “It’s wrong for them” to post the advertisements, he said. “It’s information getting out too early. We have a strategy around the release of this information through these channels.”
Retailers often offer large discounts for certain products on Black Friday—the dayafter Thanksgiving and scheduled for this year on 23 November—to attract consumers and stimulate buying. Websites such as Gottadeal.com have obtained copies of the advertisements weeks before their release date.
Olson said it was the first time in the site’s four years that he has heard from Wal-Mart and the first time that a retailer has contacted him before he put up any circulars. Home Depot Inc. and Office Depot Inc. have told himto take down postings in the past years. He said he hasn’t decided what kind of actionhe will take.
Competing retailers could use the information on prices to undercut Wal-Mart’s products, Simley said.
Wal-Mart’s circulars and advertisements will be released 19 November, Rinkerman’s letter said.