Policy enforcement on amazon is a difficult task. Amazon has provided some tools to support policy enforcement but in general Amazon does not want to take on any direct role in compliance enforcement on behalf of brands, leaving it up to you to ensure that retailers comply with corporate policies. In the following we discuss the different ways we have seen Brands enforce compliance.
- Brand Registry – This is the first step in combatting unauthorized sellers. This requires you to have a registered trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office or similar service in other countries as you need your registration number to register your brand. This tool is best used for shutting down listings that are not listed under your brand name. This is when the title/images are of your product but the brand is not your main brand. e. if you do not allow retailers to bundle your product with other brands and list under their UPC. This tool is also the best way to address counterfeit sellers who are selling on the approved listings as you do have the ability to single out sellers in this tool and specify them as selling counterfeit product. However, this tool is not useful for eliminating retailers that are buying product through legitimate channels.
- Brand Gating – This is when Amazon blocks listing creation for any seller that is not on the list of approved sellers. This is the most effective way to keep unauthorized sellers off a listing but has several challenges including being leaky (not every ASIN will be block) and overly restrictive (your authorized retailers will be blocked from time to time) and must be constantly updated.
- Cease & Desist Notice – This is the second legal way to address retailers you don’t want selling product on Amazon. However, to enforce, you need to know who the seller is, and you need to have a clear policy in place that they are subject to, meaning you must first adopt an internet policy that all retailers must agree to abide by. This policy should prohibit the sale of product on Amazon unless specifically allowed. Once this policy is in place, any sales on Amazon by an unauthorized retailer constitutes trademark infringement if they sell on listings that use photos supplied by you or content supplied by you. The challenge is that you need to know who the seller is in order to enforce any threats of legal action that you may imply and amazon does not share seller information with anyone. Finding out who a seller is takes time and a skilled investigator.
- Selling Used as New – The third legal way to address unauthorized retailers is through warranty. Amazon requires that all product sold on the site as “New” must carry the original manufacturer’s warranty. If a warranty requires that product be purchased through an authorized retailer, then any offerings from unauthorized retailers cannot be sold as “New” on the platform. Because this violates an Amazon policy, it falls on Amazon to enforce this. Amazon has a contact us form in the brand registry for this type of compliance. It is their “Report a violation of our rules” form available in the brand registry. From your price monitoring report, select all the ASINS that the violator is selling and submit the entire list to amazon. This process, like everything else is slow, requires a test buy first, and is only partially effective, but when done continuously, can be quite effective.
- Attack Seller Rating – This is when a brand will place several orders from an unauthorized seller and leave negative feedback. When a seller gets a lot of negative feedback, it affects their ability to be competitive and ultimately stop selling on problematic listings. This method is used by a lot of brands even though it is against Amazon policy. Amazon does allow buying from other sellers, but does not allow leaving feedback for the purpose of manipulating feedback. However, for small brands that do not have a registered trademark it may feel like their only method of dealing with counterfeiters.
Our recommendation in methods is to be vigilant on all approved fronts (we do not advise point 5 if you ever plan to sell under your own acct). If you are continuously sending Cease & Desist Notices, continually gating ASINS, making test purchases, and filing claims with Amazon, eventually the unauthorized sellers will depart and when you have clean listings all at MAP, you have laid the foundation to transition Amazon from an e-commerce platform to a branding and marketing platform that supports all retailers.