Microsoft has come under attack from partners claiming the firm is turning a blind eye to channel firms that misuse its branding.
The software giant introduced a competency-based channel programme in October 2010, ditching its Microsoft Gold and Silver Certified Partner accreditations in the process.
Partners were given until 31 October 2011 to remove the Gold and Silver Certified Partner logos from their websites and replace them with badges showing the areas in which they hold competencies.
However, a handful of disgruntled Competency-holding Microsoft partners have recently contacted ChannelWeb to complain that many VARs have not complied and are still using the old logos.
It is also claimed that Microsoft has done little to educate customers about what Competency-holding partners are, causing some to question why they pursued the accreditations in the first place.
A Silver and Gold Competency partner, who spoke to ChannelWeb on condition of anonymity, explained: "If a customer does not understand the value or is misled to believe that a certification that no longer exists is as good, if not better than, the new Gold competency, then it does not matter what we pay or what exams we do. It is a wasted investment."
This sentiment was echoed by several other partners, who also asked not be named. They urged the vendor to step up its customer marketing activities and clamp down on partners still using the old logos.
"Customers do not understand at all and most of them do not even know about it," said one. "The new Competency Framework is more complicated to understand and it used to be simple: you were either Silver or Gold. Now you can be Silver in one thing and Gold elsewhere."
Meanwhile, another partner described the situation as "farcical", adding that his company is considering leaving the Microsoft fold altogether.
"It is akin to piracy because there are partners out there that have not bothered to meet the requirements of the new programme, but they still appear to be a Gold Partner," he said. "
"The use of the logos is not policed. There is absolutely nothing to stop me from leaving the programme, putting a badge I do not have on my website, and using it to lure in customers. It would be much cheaper, too."
In a statement to ChannelWeb, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that it is taking action against VARs that still use the old partner logos.
"Given the amount of materials available in the marketplace, it is very difficult for Microsoft to track every partner's usage of the logo," wrote the spokesperson.
"However, we are working through a number of examples of partners using the old terminology and logos, and encouraging them to replace it with the new accreditations (if they have met the requirements) or requesting that they remove them."
As for building end-user awareness, the Microsoft spokesperson said the firm has already instigated a "number of activities" to address this.
For instance, the software vendor claims the Competency programme's benefits are clearly explained to customers on its partner directory site, Pinpoint.
Its main website also features advice and explanations to help customers choose the "type of partner that is right for them".
The spokesperson added: "We also make available to Gold and Silver Competency partners a boilerplate for press releases to allow them to promote their success, along with a standard Microsoft quote to assist in driving the message to the marketplace."
In response to this, another anonymous Microsoft VAR told ChannelWeb that help writing press releases will be of little use to many of the firm's smaller partners.
"I am a small business. I do not have the time or money to spend on marketing or sending out press releases about what my business does," the partner explained.
"And I would not have to if Microsoft took a more proactive approach to telling people what the Competency programme is all about."
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