Amazon long ago tired of buyer complaints pertaining to inauthentic items, safety concerns, and item quality or condition complaints. They profess to have a “customer obsession” and demand the highest standards from their marketplace sellers, whether you’re a private label seller or a reseller of other brands. Part of that obsession revolves around verifying that each seller maintains acceptable supply chain documentation. They’ve implemented increasingly strict processes and tools to police this over the years, and it’s come to a head in 2022: ALL sellers must provide, upon request, proper invoices and independently verifiable supplier information for anything they list on the site, whether or not it has ever sold. And I do mean anything.
Every day, we 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.” The age of listing and selling whatever you can get at a discount from retail or liquidation sources has long since past. You need to understand the realities of enforcement and what Amazon’s requirements are, and to prepare for whatever may come at you next.
Sourcing items as soon as there’s an order (like a dropshipper would) or hoping for the best with retail receipts represent poor strategies. Any seller looking for a long-term play on Amazon must use a business model that will last longer than one or two account investigations. If you lack verifiable suppliers and don’t have acceptable invoices, you’re vulnerable at any moment to a fresh IP claim from a brand or an “out of nowhere” request from Amazon for invoices. Things have been going in this direction for awhile and you can’t expect it to reverse anytime soon.
Amazon denies appeals from private label brands, too, who send invoices for products they manufacture at factories that lack verifiable website info, or if they cannot reach a contact to confirm info. Unless your supplier info matches everything they’re looking for, it’ll be turned away.
What Documentation Do Private Label Sellers Need on Amazon?
Every seller must be ready and able to show numerous specific details that confirm where and how they source items. Amazon doesn’t differentiate between Private Label Sellers and Resellers when it comes to documentation. Everyone is held to the same rigid standard.
Even if you make your own products, you’re not exempt from customer and competitor complaints. “Inauthentic” can mean a lot of things inside Amazon policy teams. It’s best to prepare to defend against potential item quality complaints.
Unfortunately, you also need to prepare for Amazon to reject an invoice or deny the verifiability of your supplier, without explaining why they have done so. They use generic, vague info that invites questions more than providing answers. You can’t expect this to change anytime soon.
How Do You Prepare to defend your Amazon account against Inauthentic Claims?
Whether you’re a private label brand, reselling, or a mixture of both, there are certain things you need to know (and have) to stay out of trouble.
You have to grasp how to deal with Seller Performance and to understand the demands put on current policy enforcement teams. You may see requests for invoices on items you haven’t even sold yet, or items that have drawn few or even zero complaints from buyers. It’s just a regular part of playing the Amazon game now. They need proof: invoices, websites, and sometimes phone calls are all used to decide if your supply chain verifies appropriately. So stay out of their crosshairs! They’ve told the public they seek zero counterfeit sales, and they have to prevent stolen inventory from showing up in seller accounts, too. They’ve set a high bar.
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 require corresponding decisions on your side.
Suppliers must be easily verified in an online search by Amazon internal teams. Otherwise, trouble awaits in the form of “we could not verify your supplier” warnings or multiple appeal denials. Please note, an invoice they accepted last year won’t necessarily go through this year. It’s incredibly inconsistent, but it’s the way Amazon wants it.
Amazon Invoice verification requirements:
Whenever authenticity or dependable sourcing is in doubt, Amazon will want to see letters of authorization from the brand (LOAs for short). Amazon may sometimes seek copies of licensing agreements, as well, if you’re reselling a brand which is prone to submitting IP complaints.
Even if you’re only selling your own branded products, Amazon started making life more difficult for you as a seller. Any complaint around an item’s safety, or condition, or general overall quality could result in an initial request for invoices and supplier info. And if the listing remains active today, it may not stay that way tomorrow, if you cannot produce what they’re looking for.
1. All company names and address details in Seller Central must match your supplier invoices, 100% perfectly. Neglecting to make sure that your supplier gives you invoices which are consistent with seller account info could mean a listing takedown, or worse. This is not something you want to delegate to a lower level employee. Ensure a responsible manager who reports to company ownership will “own” the document review process.
2. All invoice information must be legible, accurate and complete. You’ll want the invoice to include a link to the supplier’s website, as well as their address, phone number and a contact name, preferably a VP of Sales or a sales manager. That contact needs to pick up that phone and confirm info on the invoice to Amazon’s satisfaction. Prepare them to speak briefly about the nature of their business relationship with you.
3. 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 or identifiers easy to find? Images of the items are not sufficient product identifiers, despite the fact that numerous Chinese suppliers like to use the image to replace written info on invoices. That won’t be enough.
4. 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 100% out of luck. Account investigators will just reject the invoice and deny your appeal without a second though.
5. Dates on invoices. What will they accept?
Invoices must be dated within the last 365 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?
Amazon often contacts suppliers by phone to confirm invoice details so provide direct dial phone numbers as often as you can. Don’t risk a one-time call that fails to go through, or risk that a member of the manufacturer’s team fails to take it seriously.
Amazon has to verify invoice content to make sure nothing has been altered or faked on the invoice. If your supplier acts like they haven’t heard of you, then Amazon knows right away you’ve created a fake document. They can’t trust such a seller with their buyers.
What happens when they can’t verify your supplier? Anytime they cannot confirm the details of your supplier info, they check a box that says the supplier isn’t verified. That becomes a reason to deny your appeal and suspend a listing, if they haven’t already.
How do you solve this on appeal? Show Amazon suppliers who can be reached by phone, found online, and identified using the URL you gave. They’re looking to see that you use regular, established suppliers of authentic products.
ANY supplier you use has to maintain a functional, viable website with information that proves they are an established supplier for the items you sourced. Amazon won’t trust any seller who sources from a supplier who lacks a website. No exceptions.
What do they do if they cannot verify your invoice information? In the past, they simply sent a denial of reinstatement 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. Appeals for reinstatement must prove that you’ve changed your ways.
How Does Your Sourcing Choice Impact The Viability of Your Amazon Business?
We know what the Dropshipping policy says and remember that Amazon enforcement teams in the past year have suspended thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of dropshipping accounts. By all appearances, Amazon eagerly denies all appeals for reinstatement unless the seller demonstrates how they’ll abandon dropshipping for good. Failing to appear on any invoices as the “seller of record” automatically means you’re violating that policy in a big way.
Amazon won’t necessarily auto-suspend a dropshipper immediately for selling an item that they did not source until an order was received, but dropshipping has evolved into a high-risk model for account suspensions. We hear from numerous sellers making $40-$50,000 a month by dropshipping, but it never lasts too long. A short term play is all you can expect from it.
We know there are groups, courses, services and gurus dedicated to the promotion of dropshipping on Amazon as the way to go. But if you lack 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, you’re using a dead or dying sourcing model. Time to move on.
Retail arbitrage/ online arbitrage (RA/ OA) sellers only have retail receipts, proof that they bought something at a store. It also proves those sellers lack a direct connection to the brand and encourages Amazon to believe you’ll attract IP infringement from the brands you sell. Brands increasingly report RA sellers for counterfeit, too, without needing so much as a test buy. If Amazon investigators call a retail outlet, they may not get to someone who can confirm the info either. You take a huge risk of denied appeals when you count on retail arbitrage sources to verify you as a customer of theirs. Retailers may not do much other than confirm that they don’t know who you are.
Resellers sourcing Wholesale
Resellers should have authorization letters to sell major brands on Amazon, in order to defend product authenticity in today’s brutal enforcement climate. We hear from sellers who still buy by the pallet from liquidators who are confused by requests for LOAs, because they have nothing acceptable to show to Amazon. There are far fewer of them than in past years due to rampant account suspensions for IP claims and counterfeit concerns. Amazon’s even begun accepting counterfeit complaints from brands that don’t even have to show a “test buy” proving it.
At this point, you MUST have ways to show a relationship with the brand owner. Ideally, you source directly from the brand or an authorized distributor that has approval from the brand to sell to Amazon resellers. For Amazon’s own legal reasons, they need sellers who attract few IP infringement or counterfeit complaints. They use the invoice and supplier rejection process to defend their reputation as a marketplace that prevents counterfeit sales. They also need to make sure that inventory stolen as part of retail crimes don’t show up in the marketplace.
Are you going to make it easy for Amazon to review your account by providing documentation that meets their requirements? Or will you only have basic invoices and a supplier who has no website?
Do Private Label Sellers need supplier invoices and links to their manufacturer’s website to prove authenticity to Amazon?
Yes, they need to do business with manufacturers who understand what Amazon wants. 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 Amazon 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. And make sure they have a good-looking website to prove who they are and prove they make products like yours.