Suppliers seek more input on new e-commerce site

In response to a planned e-commerce venture, the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturer's Association (WWEMA) has sent the American Water Works Association (AWWA) a formal request that manufacturers be given some input.

Jan. 17, 2001—In response to a planned e-commerce venture, the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturer's Association (WWEMA) has sent the American Water Works Association (AWWA) a formal request that manufacturers be given some input

In an open letter to AWWA Director Jack Hoffbuhr, WWEMA President Dawn Kristof called for the immediate establishment of a Supplier Advisory Panel.

"It has come to our attention that the recently announced partnership between AWWA and ENI-Net is causing quite a stir within our membership, and among the community of equipment manufacturers, distributors and representatives serving the drinking water industry," Kristof wrote.

"As you may be aware, WWEMA chose E-commerce as the theme of its 92nd Annual Meeting held last November due to its potential for disintermediating existing sales channels and commoditizing technologies that support this industry. Our members instructed the Association to monitor and report on any new developments in this arena and take action, as necessary, to ensure that these concerns do not come to fruition.

"It is for this purpose, and in the spirit of cooperation, that we support the views of AWWA�s Manufacturers/Associates Council calling for the immediate establishment of a Supplier Advisory Panel to remedy these concerns prior to further development of this new web site. The attached position statement, adopted by our Executive Committee, is presented for your review.

"WWEMA looks forward to the opportunity to meet with AWWA on February 20 in Washington, D.C. to further discuss this initiative. We stand ready to assist you and your leadership in finding an equitable resolution to this matter."

On December 14, 2000, AWWA announced a partnership with ENI to develop an E-Commerce site for the water works industry. Since then, a significant number of WWEMA members including Manufacturers, Distributors and Representatives have raised concerns regarding the development of the site. Those concerns include disruption of traditional sales channels, disruption of existing pricing structures, lack of input by the aforementioned groups and the appropriateness of AWWA being involved in a commercial venture.

Presentations provided at the WWEMA annual meeting in November of 2000 resulted in a general consensus among the members that any involvement in e-commerce should be approached with caution based on a thorough cost-benefit analysis and evaluation of its impact on existing sales channels.

These concerns have festered to the point that distributor groups, industry organizations and others are developing formal positions in opposition to the site and are discussing options such as withdrawing from AWWA and/or boycotting the annual conference.

It is the position of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association that AWWA should:

* Halt further development of the site on a temporary basis.

* Establish a Supplier Advisory Panel as called for in the December14, 2000 announcement. WWEMA would request a liaison representative be selected from the Panel to facilitate open communications between our two organizations.

* Charge the Panel with addressing these concerns.

* Proceed with development of the site when, and only when the concerns have been addressed.

The Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association and the American Water Works Association signed a partnering agreement in June of 2000. The purpose of the agreement is to provide a framework for the two associations to work together for the benefit of the industry. It is in this context that WWEMA takes a position.

First, it is only fair that those who have supported AWWA for so long have an opportunity to have their concerns addressed, especially in light of the major impact this will have on the business practices of our mutual members. Second, based on the significant amount of negative feedback received by WWEMA members, it is felt that this is the only plausible approach to take without creating a major backlash within AWWA.

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