This is a guest post written by CJ Rosenbaum Esq, and Nicole Kulaga from the AmazonSellersLawyer.com. Amazon Sellers Lawyer is a legal team that is dedicated to defending sellers’ rights by applying legal strategies to protect their accounts and handle account suspensions, complaints and policy violations. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors only.
As an Amazon Seller, you have worked diligently to make sure your business runs smoothly through Amazon’s online platform. However, sellers are quickly learning that you will need to do more than just follow the existing policies; you will need to frequently check whether Amazon has updated their policies. For example, you may believe a new product is new as long as it has not been opened or used. Amazon has a more strict interpretation of what constitutes as “New.”
In fact, anything that was returned, has damaged packaging, or was opened but not used cannot be labeled as new pursuant to Amazon’s conditions policy. This new change is the source of many complaints filed by Amazon customers. Even though the product is brand new and never used, it may have damage to the packaging or have been previously opened and later returned. As a seller, it is your responsibility to make sure you never make this mistake. However, if you get caught in the trap of having your account suspended due to “Used Sold as New” complaints, it is okay; there are ways to get your account reinstated.
Your first action should be determining the root cause of your problem. Were you unaware of the policy changes? It could be possible that you allowed returned, unopened, and unused items to be resold as new. Or perhaps you had a packaging problem that led customers to believe the product was used before. You will need to evaluate your business practices and make sure there is not a larger, underlying problem. If in fact you are selling products as “New” and they do not meet Amazon’s policies, you will need to remove these items from your listings immediately or sell them as used.
Next, you will need to compose a plan of action that demonstrates that you identified the reason customers are leaving these complaints on your page, that you removed the listings, and how you plan to avoid this problem in the future.
You will need to retrain your staff on all conditions of use guidelines provided by Amazon, and review the definition of “New” which Amazon describes as: “A brand-new, unused, unopened item in its original packaging, with all original packaging materials included. Original protective wrapping, if any, is intact.”
Items that do not meet these criteria cannot be sold on Amazon as “New”. Additionally you will need to check listings for any differences between the items you have and your Amazon listings. You must make sure that all product detail page content matches 100% to every item listed. If you use alternative authentic packaging, you should also add photos of them to your listing.
Another way to avoid these clams is to implement new packaging methods. Amazon’s Shipment Packaging Requirements demand the use of two inches of cushioning between units on the inside of the box. Other ways to avoid damaged packaging is to provide an extra polypropylene bag to protect the product or you can vacuum seal your packaging.
If you are selling through FBA, it may be in your best interest to implement new QA steps to ensure items are fully as described, packaged in new retail packaging, and not ever opened prior to dispatch of items to FBA. Products failing to match the listings perfectly should never be sent to FBA.
Amazon’s policies are constantly evolving and as a business, it is your responsibility to make sure you are up to date on these policy changes. If your company receives an email regarding a relevant ASIN change or merge, you need to review your listings to confirm the updated product detail pages match the items you are selling. This is the best way to avoid complaints, unhappy customers, and keep your account instated.
There has recently been an increase in Amazon complaints relating to intellectual property. If a seller sees that you are selling a similar product as them, they may believe it is a counterfeit product and file a complaint. Manufacturers and larger brand name companies have been filing complaints on other seller’s accounts. If they see you are selling a brand name product at a cheaper price than they are, chances are they will file an intellectual property complaint against you.
An allegation of intellectual property infringement will often result in suspension of your seller account by Amazon. First, you will need to contact the seller or company who has made the allegation. Many companies have taken the necessary precautions and have properly registered their IP. These companies will have systems in place to monitor for infringement, and sometimes people who are legally selling authentic products get caught in the net. In many cases, the IP rights are valid, but the allegation is not.
Many complaints arise where your account is selling a product that may appear similar to others, but those specific similarities are not sufficient enough to constitute infringement. You will likely need an attorney to demonstrate to the company that your product is unique, original, and not infringing on anyone’s IP rights. If the rights owner does not willingly retract its complaint, it is unlikely that Amazon will reinstate your selling privileges for that item.
There are many times where the complaints are baseless. Companies and manufacturers will also file IP complaints on your account if you are selling the same product, just at a lower price. These types of complaints are without merit, frivolous, and an abuse of the Amazon platform’s implemented policy. You will need to provide your invoices to Amazon that clearly demonstrate that you purchased the product from a retailor and that there are no IP violations whatsoever.
Many companies mistakenly allege infringement on Amazon Seller accounts. If this happens, you will need to bring to the complaining party’s attention that it is their burden to prove there was an actual infringement. For example, for patent infringement, there is an “All Elements Rule” that requires each claim limitation to be proven by the plaintiff who is alleging the infringement. If the company alleging the infringement cannot prove that you have met all of the requirements to prove infringement, then there is no infringement, plain and simple.
Once it has been established that there was no basis for an infringement claim, the complaining party will usually agree to remove the comment. You will need to have the complaining party state to Amazon, in writing, from the same email address from which the complaint was filed, that the issue is resolved and they are willing to withdraw their complaint. A copy of this document should be attached to your thorough “Plan of Action” along with invoices proving your item has not infringed on anyone’s IP rights.
A Plan of Action is a response to Amazon when your account or listings were suspended. These plans should explain the “root cause” of your suspension, meaning, what did you fail to do that resulted in an Amazon violation. You will then need to state how you corrected the issue, and what you have changed in the way you run your business that will avoid future suspensions.
Inauthentic items are counterfeit items. Complaints on Amazon for inauthentic items are usually filed because items are being collected from unauthorized sellers, and resold on Amazon. Many Amazon customers will also allege that a product is inauthentic when they look like a knock-off, or when they don’t exactly match the description of the product.
What happens if a customer leaves this complaint on your account? What do you do if your account was suspended due to inauthentic item complaints? Your first step would be to determine, “why would my customer believe this is inauthentic?” Look at your inventory; are there a lot of complaints about a certain ASIN? That may indicate that there is a problem with inauthenticity of that ASIN. Check your suppliers and invoices, if you received these items from an authorized reseller or manufacture, then the problem customers are having with your ASINs are for another reason, not because they are inauthentic.
Sometimes, complaints are simply misplaced which leaves you as a seller in a frustrating position. Your products are 100% authentic, but the customer has made the complaint regardless. If you cannot discover why someone left the complaint, you will need to demonstrate in your plan of action how your product is authentic. If your invoices or receipts are not sufficiently detailed, as with most retail arbitrage you may not be able to convince Amazon to reinstate your account, even if your items are authentic.
You may be selling authentic products, but perhaps the packaging is inconsistent with Amazon’s customer’s expectations. Some buyers reported inauthentic items due to a perceived difference between the product on Amazon and the one they received. While this should be filed as a “Not As Advertised” complaint, it is now your job to correct your packing mistakes and prove the authenticity of your product.
Another reason for inauthentic complaints is that your product looks similar to another brand name product, and customers believe you are selling a knock off, or inauthentic item. It is once again your responsibility to prove the authenticity of your product as well as to correct your product descriptions so that the customers are not easily confused.