Amazon’s New “Inauthentic” Seller Suspensions:
Since the last days of 2017 continuing into the first month of 2018, I’ve seen dozens of new cases come in regarding inauthentic seller suspensions by Seller Performance before an item has even sold. Typically, Amazon tells you that you “may be selling inauthentic items” as if they’re guessing or not sure. They want to know what your sourcing is to prevent any brand or buyer complaints before they happen.
I call these actions “preemptive” because many are relatively newer sellers who are just starting out, only now understanding they may lose their listings and accounts for a lack of verifiable supplier information. Some believed they should get their feet wet in retail or online arbitrage sales before expanding their presence. Unfortunately, the video gurus who espouse this theory don’t understand Product Quality or Seller Performance teams.
In years past, many of you found yourselves losing sales from account and ASIN suspensions for inauthentic items. Sellers writing appeals continue to struggle with canned requests for “more information” from the Performance or Policy teams I used to work on.
Maybe you received one of the recent any have endured the recent spate of ASIN and account suspensions that cite Inauthentic as the complaint type, but Amazon often shows little information on the complaint source. You may read forums and Facebook groups showing comments like “But I’ve always bought these from the same supplier/ store” or “I checked these as I always do, they’re totally new!” Times change and sourcing scrutiny does, too.
Many sellers don’t expect Amazon to grill them on their business background. Before you start an account and before you start selling particular brands, think about how you look to them.
Inauthentic Suspensions: What Did Amazon Change?
Too many brands and buyers have complained to Amazon about fake, counterfeit and “not as described” products on the site. Keep in mind that Amazon managers and VPs task internal investigators with protecting not only buyer experience, but the overall integrity of the marketplace.
Amazon can’t afford to have buyers in particular question the authenticity of items every time they go product searching. 3P sellers who attract too many counterfeit complaints will always come under scrutiny by manual review, even if it doesn’t result in an immediate suspension. If investigators have any doubts about those accounts, they prefer to suspend than to risk passing them. This is all the more true with “inauthentic items” cases.
Here’s what you need to know about dealing with Amazon inauthentic warnings or suspensions now.
1. The definition of “inauthentic” appears to be expanding to include ALL item quality complaints. Items that buyers report to be defective, poor overall quality or not in 100% new condition come up as “inauthentic” seller suspensions because Amazon needs to have a catch-all term for item quality. Whether they use automated keyword notifications or manual warnings, Amazon knows it’s easier to lump those together and forget about splitting hairs.
2. Buyers read product reviews (which may or may not be fake themselves), accusing sellers of offering fake items. They get ideas in their heads that may bias them towards their experience with your products. If they see something they don’t like, they travel back mentally to the reviews they read. Then they leave one, too. They’re real buyers, but they’re not objective.
3. Sellers have become increasingly bold in creating unrelated buyers accounts that only exist to leave bad reviews. Or they hire services to do that for them. Services pitched on Facebook groups may offer you buyer accounts to leave negative reviews or upvote negatives of your competition. The negative reviews almost always say “fake” somewhere because “not as advertised” won’t pull the same weight with investigations based on keywords.
4. Amazon doesn’t yet have enough teams or processes in place to prevent this from happening, so real buyers are reading fake reviews. That can hurt confidence in the integrity of 3P Sellers and in Amazon’s ability to regulate them. No higher ups want to read stories or screaming posts on social media “I bought a fake on Amazon.” They’ve had enough of that already.
5. For the past couple of years, Amazon teams have asked for more and more info and documentation. Sellers sourcing from retail stores cannot provide the now required documentation. Do you have a link to your supplier’s website? A link to a Store locator for a local Target doesn’t count. Got a Sales Director or Relationship Brand Manager we can call to confirm you have legit invoices? Well, an 800 number or a number for the local Best Buy won’t convince them you’ve sourced a brand new and completely “as advertised” product.
What You Should Do to avoid Inauthentic issues
The Right Way To Source and Sell on Amazon:
- Don’t start a new business on Amazon dependent in any way on RA/ OA sourcing. I know many sellers cringe when I write these things and insist that they’ve heard countless stories of successful sellers on Amazon who use this business model. What they don’t tell you is that those sellers have years and millions in revenue under their belts. If those sellers get hit with a new inauthentic complaint now, they’re asked for proof of authenticity and invoices, just like you are. The only difference is they have mountains of track record and you don’t. It’s too late now to start a “new” business based on this model, no matter what that YouTube video personality tells you.
- Source from verifiable suppliers. That means names of people with real titles at those companies, and an email address that doesn’t start with “info@ or “Customerservice@” because that’s not a person. If Amazon’s Product Quality or Seller Performance teams call your supplier, it’s a whole lot easier if they’re not saying “I’d like to speak to the person..” You’ll see a lot more success if you give direct dial numbers, too, not just an 800 number which may or may not come with an extension. Give as much info as you can.
- Amazon wants to see authenticity letters from the suppliers or brands you buy from. Our clients began including these about two years ago on our own initiative, and now Amazon’s messaging includes requests for letters. If you can’t even ask for them because your suppliers are unwilling to put their names behind the products you sell on Amazon, then they cannot be your supplier. They’ll have to sell to someone else who simply wants to wing it and hope for the best.
- Stay away from gimmicks. The “it’s so easy I quit my job, look at me now!” stuff has to end soon, so it may as well be today. I’ve watched numerous videos and they all avoid the topic of my former Amazon teams. You know, the teams known for suspending accounts and taking down your favorite ASINs. They somehow forget to talk about how you might buy tons of new inventory, send it all into FBA, then suddenly find yourself unable to sell until you show something better than a store receipt or a weak Plan of Action. Why is that consistently left out? It doesn’t serve their marketing interests.
I know this may sound obvious, but we’re not in 2012 anymore. Sourcing patterns and business models need to adapt with the times. You don’t want to cling to anything rooted in the past that doesn’t translate well to the year, and the marketplace sales era, that we are in now. It’ll only hurt the future trajectory of the account and also ups the risk of a suspension.