Amazon Account Reinstatement and Suspension Prevention
MORE CONFUSION ABOUT USING UPC CODES ON AMAZON.COM

The 411 on UPC Codes and Inauthentic Claims for USED Media at Amazon

Peering inside Amazon’s black box algorithm is a Kabuki play – full of style, drama and mystery. This week I interpret several new moves in Amazon’s ponderous fan dance including enforcement of UPC codes, inauthentic claims for USED products and a new pricing tool from Amazon.

Embed from Getty Images

Amazon sellers who create bundles and multi-packs are worried. Amazon seems to be saying that they suddenly need a very expensive UPC code and that they have to have permission from the manufacturer/rights holder in order to do it.

People who are using their own UPC codes for multipacks and some bundles are losing their listing privileges. And to further make you unhappy, Amazon’s ability to check UPCs against the GS1 database has a huge impact on inauthentic claims – which are bringing down a lot of sellers of items that do not currently print UPCs on their items.

What Amazon is doing now is automatically checking Product IDs against the GS1 database. So if you are selling a product where you have added a UPC code that you purchased from eBay or some online dealer, basically, it won’t show up in the GS1 database as belonging to you or any other brand. IF this product is YOURS – a private label or manufacturer – you’re fine because you can register these with Amazon or even ask for an exception to have a barcode. In fact, they will give you a universal number for your unique products through the brand registry so you can sell them worldwide on Amazon’s platforms under that one number.

If the product is owned by someone else, then they have their own “product ID” [as Amazon calls the collection of UPC, ISBN, EANs (Europe) and JANs (Japan)] and you need to use that. Again, this is fine if you are selling solo items, but what if you have a multi-pack? You need a separate UPC code for that and if the manufacturer doesn’t have a multipack UPC code…then you can’t create one.

What Amazon says about Multi-Packs:

UPC Anatomy FINALFor most products listed on Amazon.com, a multi-pack listing is only allowed for a manufacturer-created pack with its own unique UPC. You must enter an Item Package Quantity (IPQ) for these products.

EXCEPTIONS: HEALTH & PERSONAL CARE MULTI-PACKS: One of the few cases where you can use 1 UPC code for all multi-packs.

Health and Personal Care Multi-packs — If you are selling more than one of the same product with the same UPC in “packs” (e. g. “Pack of 2”), enter the number of items in the pack into the “Count” field of the HPC template. Please note that you will need to upload your multi-packs in a flat-file.

Basic Bundling Rules:

There are a lot of rules about product bundling and you can read them in SellerCentral. I’m going to focus on the rules regarding Product ID numbers.

  • The bundle must have its own standard product identifier or manufacturer part number. The identifier of any individual product in the bundle may not serve as the identifier for the bundle. Using a UPC from any single product in the bundle to identify the entire bundle may lead to immediate removal of the listing. You are responsible for obtaining a UPC for each bundle you create.
  • Do NOT bundle branded products with generic products. This may mislead customers into thinking that the generic product belongs to the same brand.

If you read the basic bundling rules on Amazon, it would seem to be OK to use your own UPC code…as it has always been in the past. However, we see problems on the horizon.

Here’s the phrase that is causing so much angst:

“The use of false product identification information, including product IDs, is prohibited and can result in your ASIN creation privileges being removed. Product IDs will be confirmed against the GS1 database.”

Clear as mud, right? What is going on?

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. This rule is not new, but Amazon hasn’t enforced it until recently
  2. This is designed to stop sellers from creating derivative products from branded items
  3. It is designed to protect rights holders – a good thing if you are the rights holder
  4. It makes it easier for Amazon to verify authenticity of the products being sold on its platform
  5. It will encourage more sellers to go the Private Label route and….
  6. Yes, sellers will get suspended for not following the rules

We have two clients who are currently unable to create new listings because they lost their privileges.

Amazon started this last year about this time in Grocery. Food sellers were told they could no longer create multi-packs unless the manufacturer was selling a multi-pack (think Sam’s Club® or Costco® bulk purchases or wholesale bags/boxes) and commodity foods needed to be branded.

The interpretive dance at that time around this topic was a) what was a commodity food? And 2) would current listings be grandfathered in? Many current listings WERE grandfathered in. This doesn’t mean that Amazon won’t shut them down one day, but when the rules went into effect, they stopped sellers from creating new listings that broke the rules, but didn’t take down all the old ones necessarily (some came down).

Nobody got suspended at that time that we know of, but I have since seen warnings to sellers who are trying to sell commodity goods without properly branding and packaging their products. Under the new rules there is no piggy-backing on someone else’s listing for a commodity product unless they are buying it retail or wholesale, basically – like Hershey Bars®.

If I want to sell one-pound bags of certain kinds of candy, for example, I need professional equipment to take a 20-pound bag and place it into 20 bags with my brand on them – even it if it is a branded candy like M&Ms®. Someone else selling a 1-pound bag of M&Ms can sell the retail package or create their own brand and packaging. Confusing? You bet. Same with sunflower seeds, coffee or any other commodity. Simply putting it into a polybag or food-grade box won’t work anymore. If you want to make money on bulk food these days, you need to be in the food packaging business, basically.

People who sell bras, shoes and apparel need to particularly keep the GS1 database in mind. Often there is no manufacturer UPC code when you are buying the product at Marshalls® (for example) but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a UPC code for that item somewhere.

In the case of multi-packs, don’t buy a UPC code and use it unless you are SURE there is no UPC number for the item. Just because you can’t find it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. That’s why you may need to check the GS1 database yourself if you are selling a branded product where you can’t find the UPC code. Contact the manufacturer first and then check the database. The GS1 database doesn’t tell you every single UPC code out there, but it tells you if your brand has an extension registered with them. This greatly enhances the likelihood that there is a UPC code for that item and that you need to find and use that rather than using your own.

An extension is like the first few digits of a credit card. They tell Amazon and others who owns the codes that follow that extension. For example, if brand X uses 1234 xxx xxx xxx for product ID codes, you know that ANY UPC code starting 1234 belongs to brand X. You don’t need to check all the digits. That is what Amazon is doing when it checks the GS1 database. If your UPC code doesn’t start with 1234 for that brand? You’ll eventually be flagged.

Now don’t even start. I can hear it now. “How long before they flag us?” We don’t know. I just know it will happen because now it is automated. That means Amazon’s searchbots are at work. Resistance is futile. Assimilation is inevitable.

Q. Do I have to buy my UPC codes from the GS1 Now? They’re expensive!

spongebob gift setI don’t know. If you are a manufacturer or private label, I’d suggest you do. When you put your bundles together now, really think through the issues first. As long as your bundles avoid being associated with any one brand, you should be OK – think Cynthia’s Fabulous Gift Boxes vs. SpongeBob Squarepants® Bundle for 8-Year-Old Boys. You probably don’t have the right to sell SpongeBob bundles, but you can sell gift boxes. Semantics? Yes, but think about how the Amazon robots work. They use key words, titles, UPC codes.

Cordelia Blake in the ScannerMonkey group is conducting an experiment with her own GS1 code. Check it out if you are interested.

Q. Why is Amazon Picking on Us?

It is all about cleaning up the catalog. There are too many duplicate pages and too many improper listings. In addition, it is hard to test the authenticity of a product if the UPC in the catalog is wrong. Many major brands (really big brands like Disney and Sony) have provided Amazon with their UPC codes. This means when you list a Disney product that doesn’t match their list of UPC codes, you’re in trouble.

We had one client who used her own UPC code for everything she sold on Amazon.  It was a nightmare cleaning up that situation.  She thought Amazon was like eBay. It wasn’t deliberate, but you can see why Amazon takes a hard line with that kind of behavior. It leads to lots of duplicate listings.

Q. What Bundles CAN I Sell?

productbundleIf you’ve created a bundle of, say, Disney Princess plates, napkins and cups for a party pack, is that OK to sell? Maybe. 99% of those items are licensed rather than direct from the brand. If you buy them from the rights holder (licensee) AND you have permission to re-sell them on Amazon, then you probably can create a bundle. What if you buy them at Target and create a bundle? Probably not. I say that from experience. I’ve been kicked off of listings by Amazon because I didn’t have the right to re-sell part or all of the bundle on Amazon even though I bought them retail at Target.

What if you are selling a gift bundle and it is full of candy and toys? If all the items are branded, you are probably OK. You can have a Hershey’s bar with a package of Minions Mike ‘N Ike® with a SpongeBob toy and a Cars® coloring book with Crayola® Crayons. That’s how I read the rules. In the title you would call it a bundle and not list any of the brands until the description bullets: Bundle: 8-Year-Old Boy Special “Feel Better” Gift Box by Cynthia’s Fabulous Gift Boxes for Special People™.

Last Word on UPCs…For Today

I’ll write more about this topic as I find out more. Currently I’ve not been able to reinstate my clients’ ability to create new listings once they’ve lost that ability. I’m not giving up, however. This enforcement is new which means mistakes will be made and Amazon will improve the process as time goes on.

Bottom line, I predict there will be suspensions and sellers will need to prove to Amazon that their bundle or multi-pack follows policy. It may be that sellers will need to provide invoices for every item in a bundle. If your bundle consists of a bunch of dollar store items, you may have a harder time proving authenticity unless the invoices are detailed and you are buying wholesale from the Dollar Tree® or Dollar Store® vs. retail.

Is Amazon Changing its Policies for USED Products?

Recently I’ve seen inauthentic claims that surprised and worried me as someone who sells used books and media on the platform. My understanding has been that Amazon does not seek authentic sources for used items. They know we are buying this stuff at book sales and thrift stores, etc. – all places that have lousy receipts. In fact, most of my receipts are hand written (disallowed as proof by Amazon). Many of my books were bought in large lots. I used to find CDs and DVDs the same way.

However, three times now I’ve seen Amazon go after a seller (including me) for inauthentic for used media. In previous cases I basically said, “Used media is not subject to the same authenticity scrutiny as new items” and it was OK. My Carl Sagan Cosmos book was allowed.

Last week we got a different response back from Amazon that said, “counterfeit is against policy whether new or used.” OK, but seriously? This was some obscure classical music CD my client bought at an estate sale. I felt a chill down my spine. If this is truly new policy, the implications are horrifying. Nearly all used, collectible and possibly refurbished items on the platform would vanish overnight if sellers had to provide detailed invoices.

What is Going On Here?

We escalated this issue with Amazon to see if we can get a clear answer on policy from Jeff Bezos’ team or someone senior. Rachel Greer and her team at Cascadia Seller Solutions helped us with our research. After a flurry of emails, a member of the senior executive team reviewed the case and told my client, “counterfeit is counterfeit,” and they still want to see invoices.

Here’s the problem. Counterfeit sellers are selling their products as used to circumvent the Product Quality team (who focus on New) so now they’re having to review Used products as well. Category gating has made it harder to list items of uncertain provenance as new, but it’s still simple to list as used. To combat these black hat tactics, used products no longer seem to be exempted from the automated algorithms. And as Rachel noted to me, “You know they’re not brilliant at separating the wheat from the chaff.”

She’s a master at understatement.

We were also told that it was not likely to be a regular thing (even though I’ve now seen three).  Amazon knows that we won’t be able to provide receipts/invoices so how many inauthentic/counterfeit strikes do we get before we’re suspended? Three in six months, five in a year are the numbers I’ve heard before.  I can’t confirm with Amazon, but seems right based on our experience.

Will They Actually Suspend a Seller for Inauthentic Who is Selling Used Media?

Yes.  We have a case currently. It upsets me a lot. If you are selling counterfeit as “used” to avoid inauthentic claims? Your days are numbered. If you are an honest used media and collectibles seller? Those dishonest bastards just ruined it for the rest of us.

What Should I Do if I’m a Used Media or Collectibles Seller?

Assess your situation. 

  1. Do you already have inauthentic claims against you that you couldn’t disprove?
  2. Are you engaging in other violations like listing DVDs in the “Everything Else” category, selling poor quality product, etc?
  3. Do you sell collectibles, DVDs or CDs? They are at higher risk for claims.
  4. Are you buying from sources with poor receipts or invoices?

Determine your risk comfort level and act.

  1. If you don’t have any claims against you now, take a wait and see approach. Going forward, buy from authentic sources. (see my blog post on the Gray Market for more on “what is authentic?”)
  2. If you have product quality, inauthentic and counterfeit claims on your account already, get rid of the high risk items in your inventory and sell them somewhere else or destroy them. Going forward, only list on Amazon products that you would believe to be authentic yourself, as this is really a customer experience/perception issue more than reality.
  3. If you’ve already been suspended for inauthentic claims in the past, time to clear out your inventory. You can’t afford another claim.

New Automate Repricing Tool by Amazon?

In case you missed it, Amazon soft launched in beta its new repricing tool…maybe. I have predicted for some time that Amazon’s insistence that we enter our high-low range for our inventory was the precursor to a repricing tool. Check out these two videos: Amazon beta launch; analysis from Stephen Smotherman and this article from eCommerce Bytes to learn more.

My friends at Feedvisor pointed out to me that this is a rules-based program rather than algorithm based which means it is focused on getting you the lowest price rather than the Buy Box per se. This is the problem with most repricing tools. It isn’t their fault, but generally that’s how it works. They race you to the bottom even if you decide not to go below the lowest price.

Right now you have to be invited to beta test the program. My prediction is that when they launch it officially, many sellers who are currently using rules-based programs will switch. Amazon’s is MUCH simpler and – as near as I can tell – will be free. It will be an awesome tool for smaller sellers and I’m excited to see Amazon offer it. For the high-volume and private label sellers, I think they are still going to want an algorithmicly based tool that allows them to compare their sales against their competition’s.

[Full disclosure: I am a Feedvisor customer. I’m biased…but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.]

May Travels

Atlanta Olympic ParkI’m heading to Atlanta next week for SellerLab’s RESONATE conference. In addition to being one of the experts at the conference, I’m hosting a dinner on Wednesday night (May 18) after the conference ends. Space is limited to 15-17 people. If you are in the Atlanta/Buckhead area, please join us!

The following week both my business partner Lesley Hensell and myself will be in New York City for the Feedvisor Seller Summit. I’ve been allowed to offer a handful of free tickets to this by-invitation-only event to my clients whose volume meets or exceeds $1.5 M annually (100K+ per month). The Miami Beach conference earlier this year was outstanding in terms of content and no sales pitches.

Please sign up HERE for the May 24 Feedvisor conference in Manhattan’s Meat-Packing District. You will be contacted by Feedvisor if you meet the criteria. RSVP cut-off is early next week. I am so delighted to offer this opportunity to my high-volume clients.

brooklyn bridgeIn addition to meeting our clients at the conference, we will be having dinner with our local clients while we are in town. Please check your in-boxes on Friday for an invitation to this very special private party at the Reserve Cut in lower Manhattan. It’s Kosher and supposed to be one of the best steakhouses in New York City. I can’t wait! If you don’t see your invitation by Monday, contact my assistant Lissa at: Lissa@onlinesalesstepbystep.com.

51 Comments
  • Kent C
    Posted at 17:09h, 13 May Reply

    Great info and more frightening than a horror DVD, counterfeit or not. Why someone would take the time to make counterfeit books however seems a bit of a stretch. If Amazon goes after used book sellers, I fear the end is near.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 18:29h, 13 May Reply

      Kent,

      They are going after booksellers with inauthentic claims. That’s what I got for my Carl Sagan “Cosmos” book. I wasn’t shut down or anything (its the first inauthentic I’ve ever gotten) but it was very upsetting to realize there is NO one looking at this from a common sense perspective.

      We escalated this up to Jeff Bezos’ team so this is pretty much the final answer from Amazon. I agree with you that counterfeit books seems a bit silly. Maybe Harry Potter? I don’t know. However, what’s to stop a competitor from buying your book and claiming inauthentic? What about people who publish courses and books and don’t want there to be any used book sellers undercutting their prices? They can just claim inauthentic and most of them will disappear overnight.

      I tried to avoid sounding as panicked as I felt when I wrote that post, but the possibilities aren’t good and I am NOT happy with Amazon’s response. If I could stab a black hat media seller with a pitchfork…I think it would be very satisfying.

      • Beth Cherkowsky
        Posted at 07:31h, 14 May Reply

        You find a black hat media seller and I’ll hold them so you can stab them. Teamwork Triumps again.

      • Karen
        Posted at 11:55h, 14 May Reply

        I agree the Carl Sagan counterfeit claim is bizarre. And of course competitors could use these kinds of claims to sabotage people.

        BUT there are a huge amount of counterfeit textbooks being sold on Amazon. That’s what they should concentrate on. Apparently there are some really slick operations churning out fake textbooks and selling them:
        https://sellercentral.amazon.com/forums/thread.jspa?messageID=2856310

  • Dean Jayroe
    Posted at 18:57h, 13 May Reply

    You pack so much information into this blog Post. Great information on all fronts

  • Staci
    Posted at 19:21h, 13 May Reply

    Cynthia,

    Thank you for writing this article! Any chance you’d be willing to share your thoughts on GTIN exemptions as they pertain to bundles? Seller Central has information that indicates that properly created bundles are eligible for a GTIN exemption.

    Thanks!

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 14:52h, 14 May Reply

      A Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) exception is for products that do not have a UPC code. To use a previous comment as an example, if your jewelry designer uses 1 UPC code for the entire line of products or doesn’t have UPC codes at all because all the items are hand-created, then you would need to ask Amazon for an exception.

      Only customized bundles are allowed to apply for an exemption. Most bundles are subject to the bundle rules and require a UPC code.

      What is a customized bundle? It is one where there is a customized element like engraved jewelry or a person’s name or something like that.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

  • Josh
    Posted at 19:24h, 13 May Reply

    Re: UPCs. I currently create a lot of listings of Disney Store items. I end up using eBay-bought UPCs because DS uses their own numbering system that doesn’t work when entered in to Amazon. I guess I need to rethink this strategy?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 14:35h, 14 May Reply

      Yes. That’s why I’m sick about this. I’ve done the same thing and now I’m going to remove all my items where I created the listing with my own UPC code for whatever reason. There is only 1 bundle that I can legitimately keep right now and a lot of my used items will have to be destroyed because I can’t prove authenticity. On the books I’m going to wait and see if it happens again (I have 1 inauthentic for a book already). For the CDs and DVDs, I’m just going to destroy them. I bought them mostly at book sales. That’s why I wrote this blog post – to share my pain. 🙁

  • Judy Jordan
    Posted at 22:41h, 13 May Reply

    Amazon got their start by being the biggest book seller and having more used and collectible books than any other source — isn’t that correct? Perhaps I am not educated about their start but, up until three or four years ago, I had no idea that Amazon sold anything except books. And, as the senior purchaser and problem solver for an independent printing company, I was certainly on the internet all of the time — don’t know how they missed me!
    If they stop carrying used books — or require them to be authenticated, then I think that part of their business will go away. Where could one even find used books that came with a manufacturer’s invoice — it’s not possible! Certainly they will lose their sellers of rare and hard to find books because scoring a few of those here and there are what makes the rest of book selling profitable.
    I think it is unfortunate that Amazon seems to think that keeping the “real” rules undercover so that people are operating in the dark. Perhaps they think if they put it all out there the “bad guys” would take more advantage. In the long run, they don’t seem to care if they kick someone off who did not deserve it — their machine keeps right on rolling. I am a fairly small seller looking to branch into wholesale suppliers but many days I wonder if it is worth putting the time into. One of these days, Amazon may decide to can us all — and nought to be done about it!
    Regards, all.

  • catherine
    Posted at 23:12h, 13 May Reply

    Thanks for this. I sell a jewelry line that has multiple design variations but the company only has one upc for the whole line. I have also bought items that dont have upc even though they are branded (bulk item). If I use a GS1 code registered to my company for someone else’s brand that seems weird. I understand cleaning up the catalog but it creates legitimate problems too.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 14:31h, 14 May Reply

      Catherine,

      You need to get a UPC code from that manufacturer. Just because it isn’t on the package doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. IF they are registered in the GS1, your UPC needs to match theirs. You can only get UPC codes from GS1 for YOUR brands and YOUR products, not someone else’s.

      Cynthia

  • Jason Schwab
    Posted at 16:49h, 14 May Reply

    Hi Cynthia,

    2 questions.

    1st, I have about 4 gift sets comprised of Bath and Body Works items that I used an eBay purchased UPC to create the detail page. I closed these listings (didn’t delete) based on what I read here and elsewhere. Is it safe leaving them at Amazon and selling on eBay via multi channel fulfillment via Joe Lister? Or would you advise destruction / removal?

    2nd, I have clothing listings that were sourced from a popular factory outlet store (150 + locations). The store issued receipt (paper and email) includes a brief item description and UPC that omits the last digit of the 12 digit UPC (only the first 11 digits appear on the receipt with each item). Do you have any thoughts as to whether this type receipt would stand up to Amazon scrutiny if they wanted to see authenticity proof?

  • Jean Pizzoferrato
    Posted at 20:11h, 15 May Reply

    I am making a frozen bundle with shampoo, body wash & body lotion. Is this safe, or should I only sell the bundles on ebay?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 23:14h, 15 May Reply

      Jean,

      Based on Amazon’s bundling policies, it should be safe.

      However, Disney is a registered brand on Amazon which means that when Amazon runs your UPC code against Disney’s extensions in the GS1, it isn’t going to match. To my mind that makes it risky.

      Cynthia

  • Jennifer Harpole
    Posted at 23:20h, 15 May Reply

    Hi Cynthia – Thanks for the update and advice!
    Wondering how this affects IKEA items?
    a) those already listed on piggybacked listings
    2) those I would create a listing for

    (I got the ikea idea from your book so I figured you’d be the person I could trust to ask!) 😉

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 00:34h, 16 May Reply

      That is a really good question. Because IKEA does not sell through any other channel besides its own store and website, I doubt that they are in GS1. I can’t swear it, but there’s no need for them to be there. They are a self-contained system. If the listing already exists, I would not worry about it. If you are planning to add an IKEA item to the catalog, I would put in their weird model name and number in the listing. Many IKEA items are furnishings and would qualify for the UPC exemption, also. You could try that. IKEA isn’t going to come after you for selling on Amazon because they know there is only ONE PLACE you can buy their goods – their stores – and that you paid retail for it. Keep all your receipts. 🙂

      • Jennifer Harpole
        Posted at 12:53h, 16 May Reply

        Thanks Cynthia! 🙂

  • Kalvin
    Posted at 10:39h, 16 May Reply

    Hi Cynthia,

    This is a timely blog post because I was considering purchasing 100,000 UPC numbers from eBay.

    I was planning on using these NOT for bundles, but for individual products where manufacturers have not provided UPC codes.

    They say in one of the listings that they will include a Certificate of Ownership.

    The other listing says:
    “After purchase, YOU OWN your UPC codes. It can be registered in your name, and it becomes your company’s asset.”

    So I guess (after verifying I can register the UPC codes in my company’s name (that corresponds to my amazon account)), that I can use these UPC codes for my amazon listings for products that I resell?

    If I can’t register them in my name in the GS-1 database, will I run into problems?

    Best,
    Kalvin

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 11:09h, 22 May Reply

      Basically, you can use the UPC Codes for products/bundles YOU own and YOU can register them in the GS1 database. If you are creating “Kalvin’s Amazing Home Goods” for example and you are private labeling your items with permission from the manufacturer, then you are fine. If, however, you are simply taking their product and adding your own UPC code, you CAN’T do that. THEY own the product. You need to either have permission to private it label it or you have to get their code from them or you need to get an exception from Amazon for not having a UPC code. Those are your three options. To add your own UPC code is only allowable if you own the brand.

      That’s why I say that people who buy clothes or shoes are in trouble. Many of them have been adding their UPC codes to items that are owned by other companies. Just because there is no UPC code on the box doesn’t mean that the company doesn’t HAVE a UPC code for the product. If you are selling a branded product whether as a solo item or in a bundle, you have to assume there is a UPC code or extension somewhere that the manufacturer/rights holder owns and has registered with the GS1.

      • Kalvin
        Posted at 12:17h, 23 May Reply

        So let’s assume the Manufacturer/Rights holder does NOT have a UPC code and has no plans to get one.

        And let’s assume I buy a bunch of UPC codes and register them with GS1 for the product.

        Will that cause trouble with Amazon?

  • Karen
    Posted at 14:33h, 16 May Reply

    That you for your informative blog post! I’m glad there are now Amazon higher-ups involved, but there’s this glaring little “problem” with requiring GS1 UPC codes: The GS1 does not own the codes, has no authority over them, does not maintain a viable database of them, and if you try to tell them you know “own this UPC code”, they could not care less and are not required to change their records.

    The original purchasers DO have the right to sell their codes, which are now being legally sold in the used market. Before Amazon can make this work for everyone, they will have to become instrumental in requiring that SOME entity record the ownership changes.

    I heard Amazon’s on the board of the non-profit GS1. Is this true?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 11:11h, 22 May Reply

      Karen,
      It is not required to use GS1, but it is recommended – especially now that we know they are checking it. I don’t know if Amazon is on the board of GS1 but it wouldn’t surprise me. Amazon tries to control all aspects of its platform including its UPC codes.
      Cheers,
      Cynthia

  • Karen
    Posted at 15:07h, 16 May Reply

    P.S. I have a copy of the Class Action settlement agreement. Any chance Amazon would be interested in it? Or have they already interpreted it, and just don’t care?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 11:13h, 22 May Reply

      I’m sure Amazon’s lawyers are very familiar with it. This is their platform, they get to set the rules. They recommend GS1 but don’t insist on it. My concern for my clients is if they are using UPC codes for products they don’t own – they are in trouble no matter where they bought the UPC code.

  • Stacy
    Posted at 10:27h, 17 May Reply

    Cynthia,
    First, I want to say thank you for the wealth of information that you provide! I had a couple of questions about bundling, and I will use your example of the Disney Princess party pack. Say that you purchase these items directly from a manufacturer, or licensee, and have permission to sell them on Amazon – could you not create a title such as “Princess
    Party Bundle – 4 Piece Set” and leave out the word Disney? Would it have to be as generic as “Cynthia’s Fabulous Party Pack – 4 Piece Bundle”?

    And when creating the listing, what would you put in the Manufacturer and Brand boxes? As a bundle creator, this
    has always confused me, as there are multiple manufacturers – say Crayola, Cardinal Games, etc for the brand “Disney Princess”. Would the manufacturer be you – Cynthia’s Fabulous Gift Boxes? Before all of this recent UPC lookup talk, I would have filled in the brand as “Disney Princess” because that’s what brand the bundle is made up of. What would you enter as the Brand? I find myself questioning everything I thought was the right thing to do. Any insight would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Stacy

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 11:17h, 22 May Reply

      Stacy,

      You can call it a Princess Party Pack or an American Superhero Party Pack. The manufacturer is you – Stacy’s Stellar Party Packs. You can mention the brands in your product description. Don’t list any foreign brand under “brand” when creating the listing. Put them in your bullets instead. You can be both the manufacturer and the brand in this case – Stacy’s Stellar Party Packs.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

      • Stacy
        Posted at 07:12h, 24 May Reply

        Thank you, Cynthia! I play by the rules as best I can, and you are always so helpful and translating Amazon jargon.

        Stacy

  • Kimberly Schad
    Posted at 14:35h, 17 May Reply

    Hi im new to all this. I have a couple of products I sourced from a retailer that are made in China with no UPC. Im trying to figure out how to list these the right way since Amazon is checking UPC to brand/manufacture now. There is no current listing on Amazon for these products so I need to create one. They are from Kirkland’s. Should i use the store as the brand and enter their sku # which is like an 8 digit # . Im thinking about looking into shipwire for my ebay and shopify site for these type of items.
    Thanks kim

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 11:18h, 22 May Reply

      You need to ask the manufacturer for their UPC or for permission to use yours. If you can’t get either, you need to ask them for proof that there is no UPC so you can get an exemption. Check out my next blog post (going out later today) for more on exemptions.

  • Eleanor
    Posted at 18:05h, 17 May Reply

    This has me concerned as we are about to hit the back to school season which we know is a good time to rake in the cashola with bundles, just before Q4. What are your thoughts on this or suggestions?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 11:19h, 22 May Reply

      Make sure your bundles don’t list someone else’s brand in the title, manufacturer or brand in the listing.

  • Martin
    Posted at 13:55h, 18 May Reply

    Cynthia,

    Thanks for this write up, even though I ended up confused.

    As for multi packs, there is a real need and is in amazon’s interest for some of them, manly on very small cheap items, where when listed as single always end up in the “add on program”. For the manufacture to sell in brick and mortar its fine but on-line, as you take shipping in to count you need to multi-pack.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 11:21h, 22 May Reply

      Martin,
      We can no longer make multi-packs at will. In grocery it is forbidden. Only the manufacturer can make a multi-pack and we have to use their UPC code when listing on it. Think about a Sam’s Club multi-pack, for example. You can list those on Amazon because the manufacturer created them. In other categories, you can sometimes create a multi-pack by using the same UPC for all packs and making the number of units a variation. The rules for multi-packs are now category specific and you need to investigate those rules before creating multi-packs.

  • Sharleen Placek
    Posted at 19:27h, 18 May Reply

    Great article. I was just wondering where you obtained this information regarding the use of UPC’s for bundling and multipacks?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 11:23h, 22 May Reply

      Some of it from Seller Central and reading through a LOT of pages of information. Some of it from working with Amazon on these issues. If you do searches in Seller Central Help you will find it very confusing as I did which is why I needed to consult with a colleague and get help from other sources as well.

  • Lorraine
    Posted at 08:07h, 19 May Reply

    Hi Cynthia,
    I appreciate the time and research that goes into your blog posts.
    I have a question concerning the GS1 codes.
    I create bundles with items purchased from wholesale suppliers (more than 1 supplier in each bundle). In your opinion, can I purchase codes directly from GS1 in my company name to use on my bundles? Would my company name then be entered in the manufacturer field when I create a listing? Legally, does creating a bundle make my company the manufacturer?
    I look forward to any insight you can give!

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 11:28h, 22 May Reply

      My suggestion is to create and trademark a brand – Lorraine’s Lovely Bundles for example – and package your items in a way that you can defend. Affix your trademark to the lovely gift box or basket and use your branding as a way of distinguishing from anyone who might want to jump on your listing. One candy bundler I know has special gift boxes for all his candy. I can’t jump on his listing because I can’t source the damn box (I tried). Then you truly are the creator. If you are asking about legal liability issues – like if someone chokes on the spongebob bath sponge – the brand is primarily liable. They’ll go after SpongeBob first.

      • Lorraine
        Posted at 07:41h, 24 May Reply

        Thank you, Cynthia!

  • Fellios
    Posted at 08:02h, 20 May Reply

    Hello,

    I tried listing electronic product which was a pack of 6 units in already existing listing which had 2-pack and 4-pack. Before registering it with cheap UPC I decided to check whether manufacturer already makes this pack and has dedicated UPC. Another reason I had to check is because I asked seller support to work 6-pack into listing in question and they asked whether I own the UPC to which I didn’t respond because everything was already clear. Of course it would be best to list in already established listing that has reputation, photos and ranking but this was obviously risky route to take.

    After checking with their support I was informed that they do not sell it in 6-pack configuration so instead of listing it into existing listing I created new listing where product eventually sold out. I bought the product on a deal website which was selling it in a non-official quantity. Such approach is risky and should be done on eBay as it’s not worth putting selling account under risk.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 11:30h, 22 May Reply

      Agreed. Multi-packs like this are no longer allowed. You don’t own the UPC for that brand.

  • Boris
    Posted at 08:08h, 20 May Reply

    Hi Cynthia,

    If I bundle different brands, should I have my seller name in brand section on listing’s page under title and not mention any brand in title?

    What in the scenario where I bundle different brands and different generic product? I know you mentioned it will create brand confusion and imply brand association which is no good but what if I still create listing under my seller name and not mention anything in title? Can I do that as long as I:

    1. List bundle under my seller name
    2. Do not mention any brand in a title
    3. Mention brands in bullet points only

    Your opinion is appreciated,

    Boris

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 12:21h, 20 May Reply

      Boris,

      I’m publishing another blog today/tonight with clarification on the UPC issue that I believe will answer all your questions. It will be up soon. 

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

      • Martin
        Posted at 15:38h, 22 May Reply

        I’m eagerly waiting!!!!!!

  • Sue Ellen McGoey
    Posted at 01:02h, 06 August Reply

    Wow Everytime I think I have Amazon figured out.
    They change the rules.
    Was just expanding into CDs,now that is out!
    Wish they would just go after the true receivers and stop torturing the sellers that follow the rules.
    Very disappointing news! Especially going after authenticity of thrift items.
    Thanks for your time and setting us all straight.
    Sue Ellen

    • Deb
      Posted at 14:18h, 25 September Reply

      Hello, where would I find the blog you mention here ?

  • Kate
    Posted at 10:12h, 19 August Reply

    Thank you so much for all the information. I have a question on health and beauty products. If you are selling lets say a shampoo and conditioner package together is that an issue? Currently the listing only has 1 of the UPC’s on it. I did not create the listing so I’m not sure if I would be able to add the other UPC.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 00:46h, 20 August Reply

      If you did not create the listing, you should be OK. It is the listing creator that needs to change things.

  • UPC กับการกวาดล้างรอบใหม่ | Do Not Tell My Boss
    Posted at 12:33h, 02 September Reply

    […] More Confusion About Using UPC Codes on Amazon.com Decoding Amazon’s New Barcode […]

  • Jenn
    Posted at 07:07h, 14 October Reply

    Thank you for all of the great information. In the Food and Grocery category there are still many multipack listings which use the original product’s UPC code. For instance the UPC code is found on one pack of M&M’s, yet the listing for that UPC shows 2 packs. I have had success in getting Amazon to fix a number of these listings (which were not created by me), however there are many others where I have been unsuccessful in getting them corrected. Given the fact that Amazon won’t correct some of these listings, what are your thoughts on listing under them?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 12:54h, 14 October Reply

      As long as you match the listing exactly, you should be OK. There are many legacy listings in grocery that will take a long time to fix. Some are simply grandfathered in.

      Cynthia

Post A Comment