Amazon Account Reinstatement and Suspension Prevention
August 25, 2016

UPDATE: Why You Need Amazon Brand Approval Now


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Let me state upfront that a lot is going on at Amazon and there are questions I’m trying to find out for all of us about all these restricted brands.  Some of this is official (i.e. from Amazon PR) and some isn’t (other sources, our clients’ experiences, etc.).  It is intended to provide more food for thought as you deal with the changes going on in the platform:

WHY IS AMAZON SUDDENLY GATING CERTAIN BRANDS?

This goes back to the issue of inauthentic that I talked about last week.

Amazon’s focus is on building and maintaining buyer trust. Anything that disrupts that trust is a problem that must be addressed.  This is why we have seen so many suspensions for product review manipulation, for example.

In the past there has been a rush of new sellers to the platform from all over.  With that rush has come bad actors which have increased the frequency of inauthentic events on the platform.  What we see this week is part of an ongoing process by Amazon to stamp our counterfeit and build buyer trust.

Building buyer trust is in the best interest of ALL sellers.

WHAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK?

There are many brands where you now need to get approved in order to sell them.

  • Must have invoices or a letter from the manufacturer to get approved
  • Some brands also require a fee ranging from $500-$5000 in order to sell
  • For some brands you now need: 1) category ungating, 2) brand ungating and 3) permission for specific ASINs.  So, if you’ve sold a particular item in the past with no troubles you may easily get permission to sell the ASIN, but you will still need to get permission to sell the brand.

The brand gatings are across the platform and represent hundreds of brands.  The brands initially gated are ones that already have a proven mid-to-high risk of counterfeit.

These also tend to be the most popular and desirable brands on the platform which is causing angst among the sellers who buy retail.

IS AMAZON TARGETING RA/OA SELLERS WITH THIS MOVE?

No.  Amazon isn’t even aware of what kind of seller you are. They don’t track us by sourcing model.  They welcome all sellers who can provide an excellent buyer experience.  This is part of what I said last week in that if your account is clean and there are no buyer complaints, Amazon’s not going to come after you and you can afford more risk. They are targeting the bad actors who destroy buyer trust and provide a bad experience.

In talks with several Amazonians this past week we learned that many do not even know what RA is.  We are just sellers to them.

WILL AMAZON GRANDFATHER IN SELLERS WHO HAVE INVENTORY AT THE WAREHOUSE?

We have been told that there will be no grandfathering.  This means if you have inventory already at the warehouse, you still have to get approved to sell.

Sellers have until 8/30 to either get approved or remove their inventory from the platform.

If you don’t have invoices to get approved, you are not able to sell.  This is very limiting for RA/OA/Drop-ship sellers.   Liquidators’ invoices are already not accepted by Amazon.

IS THIS MOVE AIMED AT THE CHINESE?

No.  This is aimed at bad actors.  They have counterfeiters and gray market sellers from all walks of life and all geographic locations.

HOW COME SOME SELLERS CAN STILL SELL ON THESE BRANDS BUT NOT OTHERS?

Until very recently, Amazon tended to view and weight all sellers equally.  That is changing now to where sellers will be grouped more according to their history on the platform.  They will start to take into consideration your tenure and your excellent metrics.

I don’t know if this is why some sellers can sell on these brands and others can’t but it seems to fit what is happening.

WHY IS THAT SOME ASINS UNDER A BRAND CAN STILL BE SOLD BUT NOT OTHERS?

This would relate to the risk of counterfeit.  This doesn’t mean they won’t gate those other ASINs in the future.

ARE THERE MORE BRAND SHUT-DOWNS COMING?

In discouraging bad actors by requiring invoices and charging fees, it is likely the fakers will move to other brands. There is nothing specific I could find out, but in general it seems we can expect this to not be a one-time event with Amazon but rather ongoing.

While this first round was about high risk brands and products, it seems likely to me that we can expect Amazon to spiral in tighter and tighter to brands where there is less of a problem with counterfeit or even pre-emptively (i.e. something is incredibly easy to create a knock-off). This would be in line with the total quality management principles practiced at Amazon as a company. I mentioned this in my book.

WILL PRIVATE LABEL SELLERS BE ABLE TO CONTROL WHO LISTS ON THEIR BRANDS IN THE FUTURE?

Sellers will have greater control. Amazon is offering Brand Protection Services to its sellers as well as its vendors.  They want Amazon to be a platform that helps build brands and helps brands expand globally.
We heard about the exclusives program at the Women’s Conference earlier this month. That is one step in this process. I don’t know what other services will be offered at this time.

WHAT IF I NEED MORE TIME TO GET APPROVAL OR REMOVE MY INVENTORY?

Many people got a letter from Amazon this week stating that if they didn’t get approved or remove their inventory by 8/30 it would be removed for them.  It seems likely that sellers in better standing will be able to ask for someone to review their case and possibly grant more time.  We’ve been told to start with Seller Support which may send it over to Seller Performance.  We’ve not tried it yet but would be very interested to know what other sellers’ experiences are.

WHAT WILL AMAZON DO WITH THE FEES?

The fees charged when you are approved to sell a brand go towards activity Amazon uses to manage risk and investigate counterfeit.  Among other things, this might involve laboratory testing, the use of expensive equipment, etc., to make sure products are not counterfeit.

IS AMAZON COMING OUT WITH AN OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT?

New language in SellerCentral Help and possible webinars are expected to help sellers sometime in the next few weeks…possibly.  No one was able to say when for sure.

International Events in China and UK

Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, China

Cynthia will be in China at the end of August speaking at a huge Amazon seller summit on Monday, August 29 at the Futian Sheraton in ShenZhen and at a special Amazon sellers’ meet-up in Hong Kong on August 31.

Register to attend this free conference now – seats are filling up. An all-star lineup of speakers includes WorldFirst, Wal-Mart, Jet.com, SlickDeals, Anker, SellerLabs, Marketplace Ignition, MerchantWords and much more!: Cross Border Trade eCommerce Seller Summit

Sign up for the meet-up here: Hong Kong Private Label Sourcing and Amazon FBA Sellinglux_660x280_london_HousesofParliament

Lesley and Cynthia are co-hosting an Amazon seller conference in London on Oct. 26 with SellerLabs and MerchantWords. The conference will cover two tracks for both newer sellers and high volume sellers. Topics will cover compliance issues, avoiding suspension, private label, product giveaways/reviews done right and more. Early bird special is running now! Click here to sign up for the UK Seller Conference.

Let’s Meet!

In addition to these awesome conferences, you will find us traveling the US over the next two months:

  • SCOE Banner 2 (002)SeattleSCOE. Lesley is speaking on the latest suspensions from Amazon. Use code CYNTHIA for $175 off! Join Lesley for dinner at the exciting Crow restaurant downtown. RSVP required.
  • Nashville – CES IV. Cynthia is talking about risk management in your Amazon business. Join her and Lesley both for dinner at Flyte restaurant downtown on the strip! RSVP here. Space limited to 20.
  • Los Angeles – Feedvisor conference. Cynthia is talking about the latest challenges facing high-volume sellers with Amazon suspensions. Sign up here for a $75 discount! (First 20 signups only. Expires 8/28/16) Use CODE LAVFC75.
  • Las Vegas – Retail Global conference. Sign up for $100 discount with code: STINE100. We will be co-hosting a meet and greet happy hour and dinner Thursday night Sept. 22 with the ScannerMonkey group. Register here – it’s free!

retail global


Visitors Comments

  • Jeremy Jarvis

    Great insight Cynthia. Thanks for giving a clear and helpful response to the current selling climate on Amazon.

    Reply
  • Daniel

    Thank you greatly for your post. Is there a list (or partial list) of these brands? We would hate to order inventory for a gated, or soon to be gated, brand.

    Reply
    • carlo

      Nothing formal or official. Sorry.

      Cynthia

      Reply
  • Matthew

    So far none of the brands I sell are effected. However, if they are in the future I would like to know if these restrictions apply to used/refurbished items. 100% of what we sell is used or refurbished electronics. I’ve been selling since 2013 and have excellent metrics with a long history of positive feedback. Over 300, 99% positive. Thousands of items sold, and I use FBA. So, I’m just wondering if a brand I sell becomes restricted in this way, say Samsung, if it’s going to apply to used/refurbished.

    Reply
    • carlo

      Matthew,

      It probably will. THey are still concerned about authenticity whether new or used/refurb.

      Sincerely,
      Cynthia

      Reply
  • Julie Marion

    Thank-you so much for all the (free!!!!!) excellent information you have provided. You have helped me enormously over the past few years and anything I have purchased has been well worth the money. (Don’t kill the messenger people)

    Reply
  • Anita Breeze

    Thanks for this article as well as everything else you do to keep the community informed.
    I have been checking my email it seems like every hour to be sure I don’t miss anything from Amazon re these restrictions. In this article you mention having to remove inventory by August 30. But if I don’t have an email letting me know what brands are restricted for me, I’m not sure even where to start.
    Is it possible that if I don’t get notified that it means that I can carry on for now?
    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • carlo

      Yes. You are OK for now.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

      Reply
  • Alex Smith

    To be clear you said in the article that some sellers have been allowed to continue to sell these restricted brands. You also stated that after 8/30 all sellers will to need to get permission. So lets say you are a seller who never received a letter about these brand restriction and you are currently allowed to sell lets say Lego. Do you think the seller after 8/30 will be allowed to continue to sell lego? or will they need to get permission?

    Reply
    • Cynthia Stine

      I wish I knew, Alex. Knowing that Lego IS restricted tells you they can ask for invoices at any time and require a fee. If you have been selling Lego RA/OA then they consider those products used and inauthentic. We have been pushing hard for definitive answers.

      Reply
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  • Peter Smith

    I started adding items in the shoe category heavily as the last Q4 came to a close. All RA/OA. The only brand restriction letter I have received was Adidas. I never kept very many in stock, as I had seen some lists that indicated Adidas was a restricted brand. I simply removed the remaining stock and deleted the listings.

    Should I expect any more letters? Do I need to take any additional steps? Is the sky really falling? Or should we just keep plugging away and adjusting as needed?

    Reply
    • carlo

      Peter,

      More brands will become gated. Just adjust as they come. Unfortunately your receipts will probably not be accepted as proof of authenticity unless you are buying from the Nike outlet, etc. In that case they might be. Some of my clients with really clean accounts have had their receipts accepted.

      Cynthia

      Reply
  • Joey Tabush

    Hi Cynthia,

    Thanks for the updates. If we have not received any emails or notices from Amazon yet, is it safe to say none of our ASINs are being affected? Have any sort of “lists of brands” been released yet?

    Reply
    • carlo

      Unfortunately not. There is still a chance that brands will be gated for you in the future. Plus they are always adding new brands.

      Cynthia

      Reply
  • jonathan

    These restrictions have the same terms as the SW7 approvals except for the fee. Take Nike for example, If we are purchasing from distributors,we can easily get 3 invoices with large quantities, but do we need Nike to give a letter authorizing the distributor or us, the seller.

    Reply
    • carlo

      It is either/or. You need a letter OR invoices.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

      Reply
  • MR

    Please explain more about Brand Protection Services of Amazon.

    I am a manufacturer, I have my own private label which is brand registered on Amazon, I have recently applied for Trademark under USPTO. I would like to know how can I lock my brand so that other sellers cannot add offer on my brand products?

    Any help in this regard will be highly appreciated.
    Thank You.

    Reply
    • carlo

      If you are willing to offer an exclusive to Amazon they will give you the ability to kick other sellers off your listing. THey originally announced this program at the women’s conference. You have to forswear selling on other platforms like eBay, Jet, etc. It is their “Exclusives” program. There is a fee and a percentage of sales you pay. You should be able to find more information on SellerCentral Help or through a google search.

      Sincerely,
      Cynthia

      Reply
  • Ron Bradley

    Thanks Cynthia for updating the ecommerce community.

    Reply
  • Trenna Russell

    Where do we find a list of items needing brand approval or that are restricted?

    Reply
    • carlo

      There is no list per se. Amazon won’t share. Some sellers have put together their own lists based on what they are seeing or experiencing but there is no comprehensive list.

      Reply

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