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Harley-Davidson dealer is suing the motorcycle manufacturer over changes to online sales

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WAUKESHA — An Oconomowoc Harley-Davidson dealer is suing the motorcycle manufacturer over changes to online sales that the dealer says threaten to cause it substantial financial harm.

Wisconsin Harley-Davidson of Oconomowoc on Friday filed suit against Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson, Inc., saying the manufacturer unilaterally changed terms of the dealership agreement between them in violation of state “Fair Dealership” laws, and is seeking an injunction stopping the manufacturer from moving forward with the changes.

An email sent to a Harley-Davidson, Inc., spokesman seeking comment late Friday was not immediately answered.

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According to the suit: Wisconsin Harley-Davidson has been an authorized Harley dealer since 2012. But it has opted not to join Harley’s optional “E-commerce Program,” in which internet sales of Harley merchandise are coordinated exclusively by the manufacturer. If a dealer opts in, it may not run its own internet sales, but is listed on Harley’s E-commerce site that directs customers to dealers that have opted into the program — for which Harley collects a fee or fills orders itself. If a dealer declines to join the program, it can run its own internet sales and ship directly to customers, even outside of sales territories, as long as the order came to the dealer — but still pays a fee to Harley. WHD’s ability to run its own internet sales “has been a material term and condition of its dealership,” the suit said.

But last June, Harley informed WHD that it was changing terms and conditions of internet sales to prohibit all dealers from filling any internet sales for customers outside a dealer’s territory, even if the customer contacted the dealer directly, the suit said. WHD objected to the proposed change, but it went into effect Jan. 1.

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