One of the biggest problems that Amazon and its legitimate sellers have is how to prevent counterfeiting on the platform. They are sick and tired of inauthentic sellers swooping in and making trouble for them. We talked all about the new and improved Amazon Brand Registry a few days ago, but this is not all that sellers can do to prevent counterfeiting.
These Amazon sellers sneak onto the platform by putting on their best smiles and following all the sign-up rules. As soon as they have their stores open, however, they drop the façade. They actually seem to violate every policy that they can just to make a quick buck. They infuriate customers and give other Amazon sellers a bad name – and even get more than a few good actors suspended!
It is more than a little bit annoying when a seller does his best to comply with all of Amazon’s rules and regulations – no matter what he thinks of them personally – only to get slapped for something that one of these unscrupulous competitors did. Amazon has heard the sellers’ cries and has made moves to institute stronger policies that they are strictly enforcing to get rid of the problem.
Increasing Cases of Policy Violation
We can’t say that all sellers on the platform who sell cheaper versions are selling counterfeit goods, but it is hard to ignore the fact that the problem started when Amazon opened up the marketplace outside of the US and the UK. Over the past year or so, there has been a spike in the number of bad actors on Amazon. Many of these sellers will piggyback on thousands of ASINs and list without having any actual product to sell because they don’t plan to ship anything, or they ship an inferior product because they don’t care if another brand’s name gets dragged through the mud. To make matters worse, there have been quite a few US and UK sellers who have learned to play the same dirty tricks while pointing their fingers at other sellers.
How to Prevent Counterfeiting
The best ways to prevent counterfeiting that will affect you as a brand is to follow these tips:
Sell products that are unique or difficult to imitate.
This is definitely not a solution for everybody since most sellers on Amazon make their living by providing your typical consumer goods. If you are having a really bad time with counterfeiters, however, it might be a good choice to move away from these areas into a nice niche where you can dominate in peace.
Go for exclusivity with suppliers, manufacturers and brands.
Many bad actors will start by doing a search on Amazon to see what products sell well – just like any other potential seller on the platform would do. They then find out where these products come from and essentially duplicate the original seller’s process. If you were to find suppliers, or better yet, manufacturers and brands who are willing to sell to you exclusively, you would greatly hinder these counterfeiters from executing their plans. You will have to make an effort to build your relationship with that supplier to that point, but it will be worth it in the end if you can deter these bad actors.
Get your patent and join the Brand Registry.
As we mentioned in our previous article, the only real way to protect your product from counterfeiters is to get it trademarked. Having this documentation gives you as a seller the leverage that you need to combat counterfeits.
Understand and comply with Amazon’s new regulations
Amazon keeps rolling out changes, but instead of responding with the usual groan, we should all take a closer look at why the platform has put these new rules in place.
New Rules for Current Sellers
1. Exclusives program
The Brand Registry will not prevent counterfeiting sellers from piggybacking. This program goes further than giving sellers control over their listings by keeping other sellers from using your listings. You can also get this for free if Amazon decides to gate your listing to prevent counterfeiting that is happening on a particular listing.
2. Inauthentic product takedown
Amazon has been using this tool to flag sellers who they suspect are selling counterfeits or sourcing by inauthentic means – retail arbitrage, liquidation, etc. Amazon has also been using this tool to pause everything while they check on seller complaints about a listing to verify who the real deal is. You will be affected by this, no doubt, but if you are the genuine one in the bunch, the rest will quickly be found out and you can get back to business with a clean listing.
3. Account suspension
This is a horrible ordeal for any seller to go through. Sellers who are already on the platform will have to take extra care not to violate any policies that might get them suspended – like trying to work around the ban on incentivized reviews but telling customers what to say and refusing to stop offering discounts for reviews.
Getting back on and selling again might be a lot more difficult than before with Amazon’s new, stricter account verification process. It’s another way for Amazon to get sellers who are already established on the platform re-verified. Make sure that you are using all the proper documents and are following all the policies or you might find yourself in big trouble.
4. The good versus the bad
Amazon didn’t used to separate the poor sellers from those with spotless sales records. As part of their attempt to weed out the bad actors, Amazon has started going after bad actors on the legal front. They are also going to start paying more attention to seller ratings and performance to pre-rate them in a way. Those who have been clean for longer will take less severe penalties and could be favored when disputes arise. Getting clean as soon as possible if there’s anything left to sort out is a very good idea.
5. Barriers to entry
The new and improved Amazon Account verification system and Pay to play will only apply to new sellers joining the platform. This will not help get rid of current bad actors, but it can still be a big relief to know that there won’t be many more coming in through the cracks:
Whatever your issue may be with the competition and however you might feel about Amazon’s many rules, the evidence suggests that when Amazon cracks down, they are pretty accurate in pinpointing who violated policy. Amazon has invested a lot of time and money into developing an algorithm, and it works really well – their business depends on it! Some sellers who get penalized for violations are quite innocent in the sense that they are basically unaware of what happened. On Amazon as in the entire nation, however, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Amazon believes that sellers need to stop pointing fingers and take greater responsibility for keeping things on the platform clean.