3 Things You Need To Do to protect yourself from hijacked listings on Amazon
Recently we handled a hijacked listing case where an Amazon private label client lost all control of the product detail page for their main, top selling ASIN, despite the fact that they had used Brand Registry to lock down sole control of it. Amazon allowed improper changes to the parent ASIN that reflected a different brand name, and the hijacker somehow altered the ASIN variation info to their advantage as well.
How did they do this?
They gamed a porous catalog system, where info now often changes without the consent or even knowledge of the brand owner. Private label sellers wake up one morning to discover a new seller on their listing (who could not have sourced a legitimate version of the product). Worse still, the brand name or other details on the listing have changed to suit their needs.
There are multiple potential reasons why catalog might allow this. That would take a much longer article to handle, but for now, let’s tackle what you have to do about it when it happens to you.
What Do You Do if Your Amazon Listing Gets Hijacked?
You can start with opening up a case with Seller Support to see if they bounce you straight over to Catalog to correct the misinformation. But if catalog refuses to listen, or take action, or they placate you temporarily with “we’ll get back to you as soon as possible” then you know you need to go straight to the below steps.
Don’t forget: You’re selling your own brand, your own manufactured products, and the reputation of that brand is at stake. Stay on your toes and make sure you know how to defend yourself.
Do you want to wait until catalog may or may not get back to you, and may not have a real reply addressing why a new seller managed to change product detail page information so easily? Probably not. You’ve invested a lot in product launches, in developing a positive image of the products you make, and you’ve got repeat buyers who may be turned off immediately once they receive an item of lesser quality.
Where Do you Go Next? Everywhere!
Here are the top three things to do once you hit that early wall indicating Amazon will take way too long, or not do enough, to protect your listing. Here are the top three things to do once you hit that early wall indicating Amazon will take way too long, or not do enough, to protect your listing.
1. Report the seller via Brand Registry.
2. Report the seller to Marketplace Abuse Teams for listing violations and catalog abuse.
3. Pursue legal means of reporting the seller for trademark, Intellectual Property, and counterfeit violations, as applicable.
Let’s take these one at a time.
Using Brand Registry to fix hijacked listings
In this video from early 2017, (at around 13:15) I cite the fact that Amazon had big plans for Brand Registry and brand protection measures to help sellers fight back against counterfeit versions of their products. Beyond that, Amazon also promised to help sellers protect their listings from attacks just like this. If Amazon won’t stop hijackers from changing crucial title info, images, or even the brand name, I’m afraid it’s all up to you. You’ll need to push through a strongly worded escalation and get them to help with permanent action that treats the disease, not just the symptoms of hijacked listings.
Brand Registry re-launched last year to much fanfare and positive expectations. Would brands finally manage to protect themselves when it came to hijackers that hopped on their listings and sold different items, or even if they sold cheaply made items that masqueraded as branded private label products? The answer, as with all things Amazon, is a firm “maybe” with several gaps in the 2.0 process.
We help sellers report bad behavior with concise, specific details about the erroneous listing changes while underscoring the need to protect private label branded content on Amazon, as promised by these teams.
Marketplace Abuse Prevention teams need to hear from you! Otherwise, Nothing Will Happen to Your Attacker
Amazon started creating MPA teams back in 2016, but the intense need for policy teams that prevent abuse goes back years. They now have multiple teams in place to investigate bad faith practices by marketplace sellers, fortunately, but it can be hard for them to affect true change in black hat behavior.
Given the current state of affairs, they do act aggressively to punish sellers for disruptive behavior. Sellers who hijack listings depend upon their targets not knowing much about internal teams, or which queues those teams control, or how to escalate things if the well-known but weak standard procedures fail.
There are multiple successful ways of reaching these teams. Everyone starts with an email to the standard queue of firstname.lastname@example.org, but you can be doing a lot more to get their attention. If you report a hijacker via Seller Central or a general queue and nobody responds (which is quite common) then check the info you sent in. Is it specific enough? Is it actionable? What format did you use to report the info, and is it written in a manner so that an Amazon investigator could review it and decide what actions must be taken in a short period of time? If the answer is yes, and nothing happens, you’ll need to escalate within MPA teams. Then, if all else fails, consider reporting their failure to act by crafting messaging to Jeff and Executive Seller Relations.
Make sure it’s 100% clear that you did everything in your power to use proper channels to report abuse behavior, and those teams did not act on the reports.
Use legal strategies to protect your listings
Use legal strategies to protect your brand and to report legitimate Intellectual Property claims. If they’re valid and properly put together by the law firm you’ve hired, you should expect action by Notice teams at Amazon. You must certainly demand action by Amazon if the test buy of the products your hijacker is selling turns out to be counterfeit, just as sellers have for years. But beyond that, have the right legal strategy developed that is suitable for navigating Amazon Notice team processes.
Once you work with lawyers who truly understand the legal situation and who show they are personally available to discuss those matters with you, you fully grasp the proper legal approach to this situation. You won’t submit a partial argument crafted by paralegals who simply copy and paste things that may or not apply. Why? You’ve vetted the attorney (run them by me, if you want, first) and you have a clear objective to identify all rights owner infringements prior to making your claims of trademark, copyright, or even patent violations. Each legal action must be accompanied by the knowledge of where to escalate claims within Notice teams if those claims fall on deaf ears. Again, direct and reliable contact with a savvy attorney and an Amazon internal team consultant makes all the difference here. If your lawyers are too busy to get back to you, that means they are less interested in crafting substantial legal strategies.
We’ve seen sellers use the top three methods, all at the same time, to produce results that get hijackers moved off of listings. Amazon catalog fixes the listings themselves while abuse teams suddenly find the willingness to research and close abusive seller accounts that created the damage in the first place. Concerning the legal issues referred to Notice teams, Amazon usually steps aside from the entire mess and forces the two sellers to hammer problems out together. If you submit legitimate and valid rights owner infringement complaints against the other seller, Amazon has every incentive in the world to end their involvement fast, and simply. Any properly written letter with accurate legal reasoning will generate the actions you’re looking for. The targeted seller will drop off the listing and perhaps even see their entire account go away. If you approach this work the right way, you can push for solid action by Amazon teams.