Whether you’re a Private Label seller or a reseller on Amazon, these days it’s all about invoices and acceptable documentation. Sellers often are late to realize this, as Amazon is inconsistent with enforcement of their policies. They use incredibly strict processes and tools to police authenticity, item quality, and safety complaints. ALL sellers must maintain proper invoices and verifiable supplier information for anything they list on the site. This should often include authenticity letters. If you list a product in your Seller Central catalog, make sure you have an invoice that meets Amazon’s requirements and a supplier that is easily verified in an online search. Even if it’s an inactive listing, you need the documentation. Otherwise, trouble awaits in the form of “we could not verify your supplier” warnings.
Every single day, I begin work with a full inbox and far too many emails that say, “I’ve been suspended for inauthentic items, and Amazon wants to see my invoices. I don’t have any.” Or, “I received an infringement/ IP claim from a brand on Amazon and submitted invoices, but Amazon keeps sending me back to the brand making the complaint.” Simply put, the days of listing items for which you don’t have invoices that meet Amazon’s requirements are over. You’re far too vulnerable to an IP claim from a brand looking to knock you off a listing. Or a buyer (or a competitor seller who’s buying from you) making an inauthentic item complaint.
What Documentation Do Private Label Sellers Need on Amazon?
Sellers manufacturing their own products, selling their own trademark-registered brands on Amazon, also need supply chain documentation. Like resellers who only sell other brands, everyone must be ready and able to show details confirming where and how they source items. Amazon doesn’t differentiate between Private Label Sellers and Resellers when it comes to documentation. And you’re not exempt from customer and competitor complaints. “Inauthentic” can mean a lot of things inside Amazon policy teams, so it’s best to prepare to defend against potential item quality complaints.
How Do You Prepare to defend your Amazon account against Inauthentic Claims?
Whether you’re private label, reselling, or a mixture of both, there are certain things you need to know (and have) to stay out of trouble. You need to grasp how to deal with my former Amazon teams, Seller Performance, and policy enforcement.
How are invoices vetted, and what do investigators look for when they check them?
What does Amazon want to see when they verify suppliers for who they are, and what they do?
Very specific actions come into play on their side that requires corresponding decision-making on your side.
Here are the Main Actions You Must Be Ready to Complete, At Any Moment:
Amazon Invoice verification requirements:
1. All company names and address details in Seller Central must match your supplier invoices. While it’s understood that businesses sometimes change locations or payment information, you need to have 100% up to date seller account information on all invoices. Make sure they are consistent with current account info in Amazon’s tools or records.
2. Make sure supplier information is legible and accurate. Amazon is contacting suppliers by phone to confirm invoice details. So make sure you prepare your supplier to expect their call., and provide direct dial phone numbers as often as possible.
Is the quantity clear on the invoice? Does it match the volume that you sold on Amazon for the past 365 days? Are the product descriptions clear and part numbers easy to find? Images of the items are not sufficient product identifiers.
3. Remember that if you don’t have ANY invoices, it won’t matter to Amazon whether the items sold. If you have no supplier info to show them and no invoices, you’re out of luck.
Invoices must be dated within the last 180 days or reflect the delivery or purchase of products within the last 180 days. All documents must be valid and unexpired. All documents must be clear and legible. No information other than pricing may be redacted.
How Does Amazon Verify a Supplier (These days)?
- Performance team members call suppliers. They verify invoice content to make sure nothing has been altered or faked on the invoice. If the supplier has not heard of you, or can’t verify your information, then Amazon knows right away you’ve created something out of thin air. They can’t trust such a seller with their buyers.
- Will they try to call a retail store to verify info on a receipt? Yes, but the results on the verification side are decidedly mixed. Think of it this way. Anytime they cannot reach the supplier to confirm the details of your supplier info, they tick a box that says the supplier isn’t verified. That becomes a reason to deny an appeal and toss away your POA. You need to show them suppliers who can be reached by phone, found online, and identified using the URL you gave. They’re looking to prove that you use regular, established suppliers of authentic products. If they call a retail outlet, they may not get to someone who can confirm the info needed. You may be taking a huge risk of denied appeals doing things this way.
- What do they do if they cannot verify your invoice information? In the past, they simply sent a reinstatement denial for those particular ASINs. Nowadays, they often go straight to suspending the entire account. If they call a supplier and can’t get what they need, investigators tend to make negative assumptions about your other inventory and suppliers. As you can imagine, things go downhill from there.
How Does Your Sourcing Choice Impact The Viability of Your Amazon Business?
Sure, you can dropship with no invoices. Amazon won’t necessarily auto-suspend you right away unless you fail registration. But that’s a high-risk model, even if it’s also high reward. A short term play is all you can expect from such a business model. If you want to be a long- term player on Amazon and you only dropship, don’t expect to last very long in 2020.
We know what the Dropshipping policy says. Amazon product quality teams take their own view of enforcement, and proof of authenticity. We know there are groups, courses, services and gurus dedicated to the promotion of dropshipping on Amazon as the way to go. The problem with dropshipping is that you won’t have any supply chain documentation unless there’s an actual order. And you can’t verify the quality of the products before they’re shipped to the customer. That’s a business model that won’t work on Amazon.
Retail arbitrage/ online arbitrage (RA/ OA) sellers only have retail receipts to show. And they have little to no relationship with the brand or their suppliers. Are receipts proof of authenticity, out in the real world? To you and to me, they are acceptable proof that you bought a real item at a legitimate store. But retail receipts are not enough to defeat claims of IP infringement from brands on Amazon. Many resellers often find themselves defending themselves against accusations of infringement. Brands increasingly report resellers for counterfeit, too, without needing so much as a test buy.
Resellers sourcing Wholesale
Resellers need to have authenticity letters to sell most major brands on Amazon and to defend their authenticity in today’s current enforcement climate.
Can you find sellers on Amazon who still buy by the pallet from liquidators? Yes, of course you can. Anyone can buy and start listing products without first passing through an “invoice confirmation” process. Online selling courses abound for people who have no specific inventory and want to sell right away. But there are far fewer of them than in past years, due to rampant account suspensions for IP claims and counterfeit concerns.
If you’re reselling products, you MUST have some kind of relationship with the brand owner. The closer, the better. Ideally, you source directly from the brand, and they know and want you to sell their products on Amazon. If that’s not possible, you should be sourcing from an authorized distributor, and they have approval from the brand to sell to Amazon sellers.
Overall, Amazon doesn’t seem to care much about whether or not resellers who do dropshipping, retail arbitrage or non-line item liquidations remain active. For Amazon’s own legal reasons, they need sellers who attract few IP infringement or counterfeit complaints. They have to defend their reputation as a marketplace that will prevent counterfeit item sales. Are you going to make it easy for Amazon to review your account by providing documentation that meets their requirements? Or will you say you only have basic invoices and a supplier who cannot accept calls to confirm your sourcing?
Do Private Label Sellers need supplier invoices and links to their manufacturer’s website to prove authenticity to Amazon?
Yes, they do. Manufacturers of your private label products need to confirm they supply you with the items you’re selling. How do you need to prepare manufacturers for Amazon’s process? Educate your supplier’s staff on what to do if a call comes in from performance teams. Make sure there’s a plan to get the call to someone who can confirm ALL info on an invoice, down to the last detail. Anything less means you’re practicing risky behavior.
If I manufacture my own products, how do I provide documentation?
We’ve seen sellers in this position who get denied for providing “self-issued” invoices. So what should you do? You need to set up your business so there is some separation between you the manufacturer, and you the seller. Create a separate entity and invoice yourself accordingly.
Remember that “Used Sold as New” often means that there is a product quality issue.
OK, that explains how Amazon handles authenticity. What about all of these “Used Sold As New” ASIN and account suspensions? You only sell new products, why do you have to keep proving that?
Attaching invoices to a Plan of Action with your reinstatement appeal is important to prove your sourcing of “new” items.
1. You need to prove the items are not “Aging inventory” sourced almost a year ago, with potential worn packaging or dated contents inside.
2. You need to prove you sourced from a reliable supplier. One that would not have sold you resealed returns resulting in “open box” items that no longer meet Amazon’s definition of new.
Then your POA needs to explain why customers thought your new products weren’t in mint condition. Often, Used Sold As New really means damaged, defective, or not as described.
Be ready with verifiable documentation!
Amazon is not distinguishing between valid “inauthentic” complaints and those trying to get other sellers off a listing. And item condition complaints are often categorized as “Used Sold As New” which serves to confuse any seller who only sources and sells new products.
Either way, item quality teams work off of SOPs and checklists that demand all sellers prove the sourcing and authenticity of their inventory. Don’t wait until the notifications start rolling in to start trouble-shooting, and hoping for the best. Be ready with verifiable documentation!