Amazon GS1 Barcodes shouldn’t be foreign to you, since the marketplace only accepts this code. It’s a standard for Universal Product Codes (UPCs), which are the barcodes used within the supply chain.
Amazon updated their GS1 barcode policy back in 2016. However, the marketplace wasn’t too strict about it until 2018. Since then, brands have found that they need to use an Amazon GS1 barcode for each item they sell.
This is a crucial element for any Amazon seller. Owning the correct Amazon GS1 barcodes will help you continue listing on Amazon. Plus, you’ll avoid getting penalized by the marketplace.
What are Amazon GS1 Barcodes?
An Amazon GS1 barcode is a UPC that’s been acquired through GS1. Let’s strip this definition down to the basics:
- GS1 stands for Global Standard 1. It’s the organization that introduced barcodes, back in 1974. GS1 has developed many barcodes over the years. For example: UPC, European Article Number (EAN), and GS1 QR code.
- A barcode is a string of numbers that identify a product and its manufacturer. They also help track, process, store and ship products across the supply chain. The first 6-9 numbers in a barcode are the manufacturer’s prefix, stored and provided by GS1.
- The company prefix is used to create a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN). This is a product identifier that GS1 uses to create codes like EAN/UPC. Almost every Amazon item has a GTIN, since it’s required to create new listings.
All manufacturers registered with GS1 get a GTIN. Also, every product code they register is linked to that unique GTIN. This is what makes Amazon GS1 barcodes so important. They connect each item with their authentic sellers/suppliers.
Why Sellers Need Unique Amazon GS1 Barcodes
The 2002 GS1 license agreement states that you can’t use another company prefix. So, any sale, reuse, sharing or lease of a preexisting GS1 code is prohibited. It also means that GS1 is the only place where you can acquire legitimate barcodes for your products.
As a matter of fact, Amazon GS1 barcodes should be strictly obtained from GS1. This ensures that the manufacturer data is the same across the products that they offer.
But what if you acquire your codes somewhere else? While it’s not strictly illegal to reuse barcodes, this scenario can create some tricky issues. For instance:
- You could use a barcoded that’s registered for a different product.
- The barcode is already assigned to an item in an unrelated category, with a different license.
- You’re using a replicated UPS, which is not searchable within GS1. Thus, the barcode can’t be verified.
Amazon checks every barcode to verify that they’re registered in the GS1 database. In fact, all sellers are required to use legitimate GTINs for each of their ASINs. So, anyone using codes acquired outside of GS1 may have their products delisted from Amazon.
Some sellers may have trouble with this, though. Getting a unique Amazon GS1 barcode can be more expensive than going through a reseller. The initial fee can go from $250 to $10,000, depending on the amount of products that you sell.
Plus, brands must renew their GS1 registration every year to keep their company prefix active. That alone may cost from $50 to $3,000. That said, you could stand to lose much more if Amazon calls out your barcodes.
Correcting Product Listings with Incorrect UPCs
In case that you’re reselling items with codes bought outside GS1, we recommend that you do the following:
- Search Amazon for similar product listings.
- Verify that the code is correct with the brand or manufacturer.
- If the barcode is correct:
- List anew against the existing listing
- Shut down the listing that has the wrong UPC
- If there’s no correct barcode:
- Acquirer the correct data and shut down the incorrect listing.
- Relist the product with the valid information.
Sellers using Amazon Brand Registry only need to change the key product attribute. This is because such brands don’t usually need to list their products with a UPC.
If you’re having trouble, contact Brand Registry Support. They’ll help you change the listing and confirm the update.
You can also create a new listing that features the correct data, and then merge it with the old offer.
How to Get GS1 UPC Codes for Amazon
Let’s see how sellers can register with GS1 to create Amazon GS1 Barcodes:
- Open an account with GS1 so you can apply for a company prefix. This will safeguard your Amazon, since each will feature a legitimate GS1-generated code.
- With a company prefix at hand, you’ll be able to register every product to GS1. They will assign each item a unique number. Once they’re combined with your prefix, anyone will be able to track the products back to you.
- Product IDs consist of a fixed set of numbers. For Amazon’s purposes, barcodes must equal 11 digits, plus 1 checked digit calculated by GS1.
- Note that sellers can select a specific numbering system for their products. This can help keep track of SKU variations.
- Download the barcode images, or the digital barcode files, from GS1. You’ll need these to design your product labels before shipping.
- Place the barcode in a clear, visible place to make it easy for Amazon to scan and track your items.
- Make sure that you use the correct code for each package. This will avoid delivering the wrong product to customers.
2016 Amazon GS1 Barcode Update
Amazon updated its GS1 barcode requirements in 2016. The Seller Central product UPC and GTINs policy now states that Amazon verifies product authenticity against the GS1 database.
So, if your UPCs don’t match with GS1 search results, they will be considered invalid. The only way to be sure that your UPCs are authentic is to buy them from GS1.
As a legitimate seller, you will have your own company prefix. Plus, you can’t use the codes of some other business, which of course have their own prefix.
The marketplace has long faced a problem with counterfeits and duplicate listings. Instead of double-checking, sellers use their own barcodes on products that already exist on the catalog.
This practice confuses customers. It also causes reviews to be spread over various listings instead of consolidated on a single listing for the same product.
By using the GS1 database to cross check product codes, Amazon can verify the true products and eliminate the duplicates.
The policy also states that Amazon can review your listings at any time. But what happens if the marketplace detects any discrepancies? Amazon can flag any code that does not reflect the same manufacturer/brand that you have on your listings.
In a worst-case scenario, any listings with invalid product UPCs will be removed. Plus, your ASIN creation or selling privileges could be temporarily or permanently removed.
Amazon GS1 Barcode Exemptions
Now, there are some cases where you should not be using a barcode assigned to you by GS1. For example, when you sell a product that’s not branded under your company.
When you resell another brand’s product, you should not be using your UPC. Resellers should rather use the barcode purchased and supplied by the brand/manufacturer.
Your seller account can be shut down if you slap your own UPC on someone else’s product. Plus, you could also face serious legal charges from the brand owner.
If the products don’t have a barcode, get in touch with the manufacturer/supplier to get it sorted out.
The same scenario applies to product bundles from a third-party brand. You need to request the UPC that applies to the bundle.
In case an item or bundle doesn’t have a GTIN, you can apply for a GTIN exemption. Prepare some product images and a letter from the brand owner stating that they do not have a GTIN. You can also include a link to the product page.
Here’s another unique scenario: Amazon allows private label items in select categories to be sold without a UPC. That is, of course, if the seller applied for a GTIN exemption. In such cases, Amazon assigns a Global Catalog Identifier (GCID) to the product, instead of a UPC.
Now, private label bundles require a separate GS1 UPC that is unique to the bundle. If the products in the bundle are from multiple brands, you can also apply for a GTIN exemption.
Owning authentic Amazon GS1 Barcodes is crucial for any seller in the marketplace. Such tools will help you optimize the supply process.
Not only that, but you’ll protect your item against duplicates or counterfeits. Plus, legitimate GS1 barcodes, will allow you to continue listing on Amazon.