Season 1, Episode 122

Why is my product flagged as a pesticide?

There’s a lot of confusion around the seller community and in the general public about what exactly a pesticide is. Most people tend to think of chemical pesticides, but those are not the only types of pesticides.

Often sellers are selling pesticides without even realizing it, due to the claims they are making. Or, especially during busy sales periods, their products are flagged as pesticides due to an attack from a competitor.

In this episode, Leah McHugh talks about what pesticides are, how they are regulated on Amazon, and how to deal with attacks that could take your best-selling ASIN down during crucial sales periods.

Show Notes

Transcript

Welcome to the seller performance solution podcast. My name is Leah McHugh, and I am a consultant with ecommerceChris. Today, I am here without Chris McCabe, who is on his way to New York for a conference. Something that we’ve been seeing a lot of lately, again, that’s something that we see in waves, are a lot of products on Amazon being flagged as pesticides.

These are the cases that I primarily work on within our firm, and there’s a lot of confusion around the seller community and I think just in the general public about what exactly a pesticide is. So, most people who come to us, if their product is flagged as a pesticide, immediately tell us that their product is not a pesticide and this is incorrect, and then I take a look at their listing and their product is in fact a pesticide. So I wanted to start this episode off by firstly explaining what a pesticide is. I think when most people think of pesticides, what they think of are chemical pesticides, which is a type of pesticide. But the way the EPA regulates pesticides are anything that claims to kill pests.

So whether that is a chemical pesticide, which is the one that most people are most familiar with, or simply a steam application that’s used to sanitize things. That is also considered a pesticide, even though essentially it’s just water and heat because it claims to sanitize or kill pests. That’s considered a pesticide.

And then you also have pesticide devices which are things like fly traps, or anything that’s used to trap and kill a pest is considered a pesticide device. The only type of product that can make these sorts of kill claims without being regulated by the EPA are products that claim to kill pests on your body.

So, for example, a hand sanitizer is not considered a pesticide by the EPA. That’s actually regulated by the FDA because it’s in relation to the human body. So If your product claims to kill pests that aren’t on the human body, it is considered a pesticide. Now pesticides and pesticide devices are regulated a little bit differently.

So pesticide devices only require an EPA establishment number. Whereas pesticide products that aren’t devices, also require an EPA registration. And so that is what Amazon will ask you for if your product is flagged as pesticides. So if you’re making any sort of claims regarding killing pests, that is why your product is being flagged.

Now if those claims are just on the detail page, you do have the option of simply removing those claims from the detail page, and then appealing on that basis that you are no longer making any restricted pesticide kill claims. You would like the ASIN reinstated on those grounds.

Now if you’re making the pesticide claims on the product itself or on the product packaging, that is unfortunately not an option. So you would either need to re-do the packaging to remove those pesticide claims, and then create an entirely new ASIN for that product. Or you would need to register your product and your establishment, depending on the type of product, with the EPA as a pesticide, and then you would submit that information to Amazon showing that it is in fact a registered pesticide, which is allowed to make those claims and is allowed to be sold on Amazon. So that’s the first place that you should look if you are flagged as selling a pesticide product.

Now if you are selling a product that has absolutely nothing to do with pesticides, and you definitely aren’t making any kill claims, but your product is still being flagged as a pesticide, that is generally one of two things.

Either you or somebody on your team has perhaps put in some strange, hidden, keywords that perhaps optimization software has told you would be a useful search term for your product, even though it really has nothing to do with your product, and those are pesticide claims, and that is the reason for your product being flagged.

Or the other option, which is the one that we see the most often when there aren’t actual pesticide claims being made by the seller, is an attack. So another seller has come in and they have put some sort of kill claim or hidden keywords into your listing in order to intentionally get it flagged as a pesticide and removed from sale, at least for a few days while you try to sort it out.

And this is something that we see a lot of during any high volume sales period. So especially in Q4, especially around Prime Day. Black Friday, I think I’ve dealt with some sort of keyword attack every Thanksgiving for the last few years, because it’s a very quick and it’s a very easy and it’s a very effective form of abuse to just take out your competitor’s listing for a few days.

Unfortunately it used to be a lot easier to see where this had been added into your listing. A year ago, maybe two years ago. I don’t know. It’s all a blur at this point. The category listing report used to show sellers what the live information on a listing was in Amazon system. Now that report shows you what your contributions to the listing are in Amazon’s system. Which is useful in terms of checking what you’ve added to the listing, but less useful in terms of finding out if somebody has put bad information into your listing to get it deactivated. So another place that you can look is the back end of the listing. You have that checkbox option that allows you to show the live listing information as well as your contributions.

And so you can take a look in that live listing information to see if there’s any weird, incorrect information in there that you haven’t added that needs to come out of that listing, to remove the pesticide claims. That being said, a lot of these attackers have gotten a little bit more savvy. They’re either adding these terms to attributes that you can’t necessarily see in the back end, or they’re adding the abusive content just long enough for that listing to be flagged as a pesticide, and then they’re removing it. So when you go to look at your own listing to see why this possibly could have been flagged as a pesticide, you can’t see any reason why. So, to start with, let’s say that you can see the abusive content that is on your listing that’s getting it flagged as pesticide. So the easiest place to start is to download a category listing report. Find the attribute where that abusive content is in, whether you’ve added it and so you can already see it in the listing report, or you didn’t add it but you can see it in the back end of your listing. You need to find that corresponding attribute in the category listing report and edit it to remove the restricted claims.

The reason we’re doing this with the category listing report is that it saves you the effort of having to fill in a whole blank flat file. Category listing report already has your contributions for that ASIN in a nice handy Excel sheet. So all you need to do is go in and edit the relevant attributes that need to be edited rather than filling in all of the very many attribute fields that need to be filled in if you’re restarting it from scratch.

Then you need to upload that flat file in Seller Central, download the processing report and make sure there aren’t any errors. Assuming there aren’t any errors, you then need to call Catalog to actually confirm the changes are showing on their end.

Because unfortunately, when a listing is blocked, you can’t trust what you see in Seller Central. So you may see the changes in Seller Central on your end, but they aren’t actually showing in Amazon’s tools, or more often, you can’t see the changes on your end, but they’re showing internally in Amazon’s tools.

And ultimately the compliance team are looking at their own internal tools. They’re not logging into your Seller Central account to see what you see there. So you need to make sure that the relevant changes are made and pushed all the way through Amazon’s tools. And unfortunately, the only way to confirm that change is to call catalogs. Emailing catalog will just result in them sending you a templated response.

You need to call in, give them the batch ID, say, Hey, we edited this attribute. Can you please check this attribute and make sure that our changes have gone through and those restricted claims are no longer there. Once they’ve confirmed that change, they can actually transfer your case to the PCRP team, or the compliance team, for review and reinstatement.

Now if the abusive content is made on an attribute that you don’t have access to edit. Again, you will need to speak to the catalog team and have them make that edit and change for you. And then transfer the case again to the PCRP team. So essentially, and I think this is where a lot of the confusion comes from.

Pesticides are mostly regulated on Amazon, based on whether or not they make kill claims. So you either need to stop making kill claims yourself on products that aren’t regulated as pesticides, or you need to make sure that if anybody does add kill claims to your listings, you’re getting them removed as quickly as possible in order to get your ASIN reinstated.

And then finally, if your product is actually a pesticide registered with the EPA, which is allowed to make these claims, you need to make sure that you have your relevant EPA registration or establishment number, depending on the kind of product, you need to make sure that you have that in the compliance information of the ASIN.

So if you go to either the compliance tab or you look in a flat file or a category listing report, there is a compliance regulation type and a compliance regulation number field where you need to input establishment number, or EPA registration number, and then fill in your relevant number. So your product doesn’t keep getting flagged as an unregistered pesticide if it is in fact a registered pesticide.

A lot of people think that they just have to do the pesticide quiz in Seller Central and then they can list whatever pesticides they want, but that is actually not the case. Essentially the quiz gives you approval to list registered pesticides, but you still have to have that EPA registration and you still have to include that EPA registration or establishment information in the ASIN, otherwise it’ll keep being taken down.

A few years ago, when we were seeing a lot of pesticide flags, there was misguided information. I believe it actually initially came from seller support as a short term fix, but then it spawned out into the into the seller world, as this is what you need to do on all of your listings so it doesn’t get flagged as a pesticide.

So a few years ago, people were adding “this is a pesticide device or product” into the compliance field and then saying that it was exempt from requiring a pesticide registration or establishment number. Don’t put this in your listing unless your listing is in fact a pesticide that is exempt from registration or establishment registration.

And those pesticides are generally considered minimal risk pesticides, which are regulated by the EPA a little bit differently than other pesticides. But if your product has absolutely nothing to do with pesticides, don’t fill those fields in saying that it is a pesticide exempt from EPA registration because that’s giving Amazon incorrect information. And while it was touted as a way to stop your listing getting flagged as pesticide, it can actually cause your listing to be flagged as a pesticide. Similarly, if you’re saying that your product is pesticide free, we still occasionally see that being flagged as a pesticide just because it has the word pesticide in it.

Most of these types of flags are automatic. They’re being done by an algorithm searching for keywords. It is getting a little bit better in terms of reading those keywords in context, but ultimately it is still a mostly automated system, not usually being reviewed by an actual person. Or when it is being reviewed by an actual person they are just following their SOP laid out for Amazon, which unfortunately doesn’t really seem to take context into consideration. So any words that you’re putting in your listing, whether it’s fungus or bacteria, pesticide free, like I said, just keep in mind that those words could get you flagged as a pesticide, which could take your listing down for a day or two while you remove that information and get it reviewed by the compliance team. We are seeing an uptick of this. Like I said, some of it is just increased scrutiny by Amazon. They tend to do these in waves, and some of it is also abuse at this time of year. We see so much keyword abuse this time of year, so just make sure that you’re checking your listings. Ideally, you’re using some sort of alert software, so you’re being notified if somebody makes a change to your listing, so you can remove any abusive changes before Amazon flags it.

If you have any questions on this, like always, feel free to reach out to us. We are here seven days a week in Q4. As you can see, I am slowly getting more and more tired looking as we get deeper and deeper into Q4. But any questions on this, any issues, please reach out to us. We work on this all the time.

We’re here to help. Thanks for listening, guys.

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Leah McHugh

 

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