Amazon Sellers are learning they aren’t ready to be verified just as Amazon increases requests to comply with INFORM ACT requirements and threatens account suspensions.
If you sell on Amazon’s US Marketplace and haven’t had your account verified, or it has been more than a year since you were verified, there’s a good chance you will be asked to provide verification documents before June 27, 2023. Some Amazon Sellers are failing verification because they either don’t understand what Amazon wants, requirements are complicated, Amazon doesn’t understand their business, or they are bad actors who got caught.
Our clients are often confused. While verification seems straightforward, there are a lot of pitfalls. Today I thought I’d answer the verification questions we get the most.
Q What is a beneficial owner?
Amazon’s definition is anyone who owns more than 2% of a business. This beneficial owner can be a person, like your business partner or spouse or an entity like a parent corporation or investment partnership. Amazon requires you to explain the entire chain of ownership up to the ultimate beneficial owners/people. Sometimes we must create flow charts and PowerPoints to explain it to Amazon.
Q What exactly does Amazon want to look at?
Amazon doesn’t always require an established Seller to provide all these documents, but it is best to be prepared:
- Driver’s license or passports of all beneficial owners (anyone owning more than 2% of the business). Full color scan, high resolution – use a flatbed scanner not a picture from your phone.
- Bank Statement in full color, high resolution PDF (not normal resolution) with 30 days of transactions on it. This is NOT the time to get a new bank account. Must include ALL pages of the statement even the ads and legal mumbo-jumbo.
- Utility Bill in full color, high resolution PDF. Must be tied to your business address or the primary account owner’s home address. Must include all the pages of the statement.
- Explanation of corporate structure. This includes other entities that may own a piece of your business.
- Business license or document from your state of incorporation (or country) that shows your business is in good standing.
- Your official business address according to the IRS.
Q What is the primary account owner and how is that different from a beneficial owner
Depending on how your account was set up in the beginning, the primary account owner is the person who set up the account and who owns the email address associated with the account. Only the primary account owner can change things like your bank account, tax ID and official business address. Even if other people are “admins” on your account, they cannot make those critical changes.
This person/email address may or may not be a real person (email@example.com) and this person may or may not be a beneficial owner. He or she might be an employee. Whoever is behind that email will need to be verified as well. Usually in the case of most Sellers, the person behind the email IS a beneficial owner, but I wanted to clarify this point.
Q Why does the resolution of my documents matter?
Your documents are looked at by machine before they get to a human. Many Sellers’ documents are rejected automatically simply because the resolution isn’t clear enough, the documents aren’t in color, etc. So, while a human looking at your bank statement can read it perfectly fine, it can still be rejected by Amazon. We learned this years ago with verification. When we conduct document reviews for our clients, if the rejected documents themselves seem fine, we often have our clients scan them on a flatbed scanner at 600 dpi and the same document will now be accepted.
Q What is the video interview? Why are Sellers failing a video interview?
Most Sellers who fail the video interview are either unprepared or Amazon thinks they are lying for some reason. For those who were unprepared, we can usually get them another interview. Sometimes the interviewers are professional and pleasant, sometimes you feel like you are in a deposition with an aggressive lawyer. The better prepared you are, the better your chances of success. If there is a reason you or any of your beneficial owners are unwilling to appear on video…you should talk to us.
Q How long does verification take?
It depends on Amazon’s requests and backlog. If they want you to do a video interview, for example, it can take a week or more to get an appointment depending on their backlog. During the next few weeks until June 27? I have no idea. It depends on whether they staffed up. After the video interview, you generally know within a few days if you passed. We’ve seen it the same day and up to 3 days later. Again, it is about the backlog on their side. Also, if they are rejecting your documents, that adds time to the process as well since you need to send acceptable documents to them before the video interview.
For many Sellers who are prepared, it is a no-drama event. For other Sellers it’s agony because Amazon suspended them when they requested verification documents. Why are some Sellers suspended? Because Amazon is suspicious of them, or they are in bad standing with Amazon. Other Sellers aren’t suspended, but some money may be held back while their account is under review.
Q Is there any way I can check to see if I’m already verified?
If you do not remember being verified, you probably have not been verified or it was so long ago that Amazon will want to re-verify you. Many Sellers were verified when they opened their accounts, but some older accounts (pre-2017) were “grandfathered” from verification like me. Anyone grandfathered who has not gone through verification could be asked to be verified now. We want to help our clients be prepared, just in case. In addition, even if you were verified within the past two years, Amazon has stated it will verify all Seller accounts worldwide every two years on an ongoing basis.
Q I’ve heard that updating my bank or tax information can trigger a verification – is that true?
Yes, it can, but it doesn’t always. We don’t know how the black box of Amazon’s algorithm works, but we know that it takes multiple factors into account and sometimes updating critical account information like your bank account or tax ID will be the tipping point. The algorithm could be equally triggered by something else. We don’t know, so it is best to be prepared so that verification is not a huge disruption to business operations.
Q How does eGrowth Partners help Sellers pass verification?
Over the years we have helped many Sellers pass verification. Since January, the volume of verifications has increased significantly with video interviews being added to the mix. In most cases, we are hired when a Seller fails verification, and it is always more work to get them another chance with Amazon.
We offer both pre-verification and failed verification support. Our process for each is the same. We:
- Review all documents for possible Amazon rejection reasons.
- Advise on how to fix the problem. This may require different documents, more recent documents, better resolution on documents and/or detailed explanations to Amazon.
- Submit or re-submit documents to Amazon. If they are no longer accepting Seller documents, we have off-platform emails to use. For those who have already failed, we write an appeal.
- Prepare Seller for video interview – including a rehearsal.
Q Do you think Amazon will really suspend Sellers who aren’t verified by June 27?
Yes, of course. The key part of that statement from them is those Sellers who have been asked to be verified before June 27. If you are not asked, they won’t suspend you. That means your account has been verified recently enough and/or that they are currently satisfied with your account information.
Sellers cannot initiate verification (except when opening a new account or acquiring a business with an active Amazon account – that’s automatic). The only proactive thing you can do is review your documents and Seller account and make sure everything is current and understandable to Amazon.