Season 1, Episode 132

You aren’t authorized to sell your own brand

Amazon sellers are encountering an increasing array of challenges when it comes to listing and selling their own products. A rising trend has been observed where sellers, despite being brand owners, are facing restrictions and even deactivations for products they rightfully own. In this episode, Chris and Leah dissect the confusing messages from Amazon, the hurdles in product compliance, and the baffling interactions with Account Health Services.

Show Notes

Transcript

[00:00:00] Chris: Hey everybody, this is Chris McCabe. Welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions. I’m here with Leah McHugh. We’re both with ecommerceChris and we’re both looking at some messaging that comes from the seller forums, correct? Some people posting questions that we see all the time too in our support inbox around having your ASIN taken down, being deactivated, and being told that you don’t have approval to list and sell your own products, or products within the category, or both? We’re seeing both. 

[00:00:32] Leah: Yeah I mean, so I’m seeing it more on the compliance side where they’re saying the product doesn’t comply, but the product does comply. And then once they’re like, “Oh yeah, it does comply, but you don’t have approval to list it.” and it’s like, um, it’s my product. 

[00:00:45] Chris: And there’s tons of confusion. I mean, I’ll read directly from one of the messages we saw. “You are not approved to list this product. You will need to contact the brand owner to become an authorized seller of this product on Amazon.” And of course, you are the brand owner. And there’s a steadily increasing, and getting louder chorus of people who are seeing these messages and then they, some of them at least, call into account health services and talk to account health reps who Are either reading from some generic menu, or thinking of a call they had earlier in the day. I’m not sure why they’re saying these things. 

[00:01:21] Leah: I’m also not sure how much visibility account health have into the tools in terms of like product gating. 

[00:01:30] Chris: Right. But shouldn’t…

[00:01:30] Leah: so they’re just saying something.

[00:01:32] Chris: Shouldn’t a quick conversation with the person on the other end of the phone, the seller who says I’m the brand owner, and if necessary proves it quickly. Shouldn’t that sort of move the conversation past this. Because some of the account health reps are then saying, “Oh, so you’re the brand owner and you got this message. Well, who’s the manufacturer?” They just start talking about whether or not you’re authorized to sell what the manufacturer is manufacturing for you.

Have you heard that one too? 

[00:02:00] Leah: Yeah. Again, cause I mostly see these when there’s like an incorrect compliance flag first , but it’s the same thing. Accountant health doesn’t really have a huge amount of insight into the compliance team. So they are also just giving like general information or wrong information, because they just don’t have access to those specific tools, or the people on those teams. And so we’re getting people coming back saying like, “Oh well your account doesn’t meet the requirements to sell that product.” Or that brand. Or “we’re not accepting any applications to sell this product, or this brand.” But a number of times I’ve actually had them get a friend with a seller account to test if they’re able to list the product. And a lot of times another account that isn’t even approved to sell in that category has the ability to request approval, when the brand owner who already has category approval doesn’t have the ability to request approval.

Right. So I don’t know if this is some very new and somewhat complex form of abuse, I guess it could be. Or if it’s just incompetence. And I tend to go that way, but you tend to go the other way. So we’ll see. 

[00:03:04] Chris: It also gets more confusing because sometimes some of the brand owners say, look, we are the only seller of this product. we are the exclusive seller of this product. And then they start talking about exclusivity. Oh well, you can’t nominate yourself, or announce yourself as an exclusive seller of your own brand. It’s an open marketplace. Somebody who buys your product legitimately can join the listing, and then it goes down that pathway.

It reminds me of the confusion around resellers constantly being asked if they have a letter of authorization. You can only sell this product on Amazon if you have an LOA, if you have permission from the brand. I can’t tell if the people on the other end of the phone are just saying that to try to end the conversation because they know you don’t have an LOA, or if these concepts are just being mixed and matched together to the point where what’s gated, what’s approved, what a brand approval is versus what a category approval is, compliance requirements versus other kinds of approvals. Are they just dropping this all into a, witch’s brew, stirring it up, and then pulling out whatever happens to come to mind at that given moment? They’re not getting training on these things. I mean, we already know that. 

[00:04:22] Leah: Yeah, so my theory is that they maybe moved it to a different team and didn’t tell the team that is now responsible for it how to do it.

[00:04:30] Chris: Right. 

[00:04:31] Leah: And then the old people who actually know how to do it don’t have access to do anything with it anymore. That’s my theory. I don’t have any proof of this, but that’s my theory based on what I’ve gotten back from Amazon. 

[00:04:41] Chris: We’ve talked about this. And then further confusing things is people are asking us, you know, I’ve got no ASIN level complaints on this product. I’ve been selling it for however many years, my account health. And then they want to talk about how clean their account health is. 

[00:04:59] Leah: Well because a lot of times they are getting a response back saying that their account doesn’t meet the requirements to sell that product. And they do talk about performance, and account health in those emails. And often it’s wrong. But I think that is why sellers are talking about it, because that’s the way Amazon is pointing them. They don’t tell them what the requirements are though, they just tell them that they don’t meet the requirements. 

[00:05:18] Chris: So it’s the deficiencies of the messaging combined with, people follow up and make the call into account health, or try to open a ticket with support. Or even a case with their account manager if you’re in the SAS core paid account management program and getting these types of answers back. And in terms of SAS core, a veteran seasoned account manager is probably more likely to read through, and just know from experience what’s going on, and how to cut through that. But even then sometimes their cases, their tickets, whatever they internally escalate runs into red tape. 

[00:05:53] Leah: I will say that the clients that we work with who have SAS managers, when we use the SAS path to escalate, it takes a lot longer to get a response to an SAS escalation, than to a regular case, or to any other kind of escalation.

[00:06:09] Chris: Oh yeah.

[00:06:10] Leah: Like, I think they hit dead ends and then can’t do anything. But they can’t just tell you that they hit a dead end, so then they’re just like “still waiting for a response.” 

[00:06:18] Chris: Since with each passing month, we’re talking to more and more brands that are paid members of the SAS core program. Let’s talk about that for a second, because of the duration of their tickets, but also when they get responses sometimes you wait three, four, or five days for the answer. And then they come back with, I need to resubmit it, or the people I opened the case with don’t know the answer. 

[00:06:42] Leah: Or the case was just closed without a response. I’ve heard that from a number of SAS reps. 

[00:06:46] Chris: But just the fact that you’ve got so many people, you, your account manager, and then whoever they contacted internally. And of course, if you come back with any questions like, why didn’t they know, or what happened exactly, they’re very low on the details.

So it’s very binary. Yes or no. They either solved it, and the agony is over, or you have to wait more, or it’s just denied. And then you have to spend all this time trying to figure out, why was their case closed? Why was the request denied? And are they ever going to give us more information? Probably not.

They’re either going to fix it or they’re going to come back to you and say, we need more from you. And they’ll ask for things like authorization to sell your own brand. Right. So is that a stall tactic? Is it misinformation? Either way. Our recommendations in terms of how you solve this is escalation paths. But virtuous and reliable escalation paths, not just let’s open a case and throw it at the wall and see what sticks. 

[00:07:46] Leah: Well, so in my experience with these, the lower level teams just don’t have the access to troubleshoot it. All they can do is plug your scenario into their tools and tell you what the tool says. They don’t seem to have the ability to troubleshoot past what their tool says, and they also don’t seem to have the access to whoever is the team that is making the restrictions. To either ask them, or to transfer it to get it properly reviewed. None of the lower teams seem to have access. They seem to be even more siloed in their tools. Which again is what leads me to believe that this was maybe moved to a different team without trading, and none of the other teams can really access that team because for the most part, we have had to escalate these in order to get them actually taken care of and not just getting the like, “Oh, well, you don’t meet the requirements sorry.” 

[00:08:39] Chris: I think in almost all cases, we’ve had the email escalations in from the primary email address on the account. There were some people who came to us. Their account managers had been working on it for so long that a lot of the waiting period had passed. So they actually did make some headway after like 14, 15 days. But that was 14, 15 days of a ridiculous ASIN takedown.

[00:09:04] Leah: Well, and the other side of that is that we’ve had people come to us saying they wait to get the response from their SAS manager. And then they come to us and they’re like, “So Amazon’s going to remove a hundred thousand units of our inventory in two days. And we need to get this resolved.”

[00:09:18] Chris: Yes, that’s a great point. We’re hearing from a few people that are not our ongoing monthly clients. But come to us very, very late in the game where the inventory is about to be removed or disposed of. And then they’re finally ready to escalate, when they should have been escalating it way before their 60 day period was coming down. So do not wait, wait, wait, wait, and then push the panic button within 48 hours of removal and disposal. 

[00:09:47] Leah: Well particularly if you’re a SAS manager it can extend that deadline 

[00:09:52] Chris: to get that out quickly. Sooner than later. Yeah. Any other points we should make on this from your compliance work, your brand registry?

Troubleshooting? Which is a bit different than what I’m working on day to day.

[00:10:06] Leah: I think what I’ve been finding the most interesting with these restrictions of selling your own products is that they really don’t seem to be coming from brand registry. And if you try to bring it up with brand registry, or if your case gets transferred to brand registry, they have no idea what you’re talking about. Well, granted, a lot of times brand registry has no idea what you’re talking about when it does have to do with their teams, but it doesn’t seem like it’s coming from the brand or industry team. It seems to be coming from a different internal team. And like I said, it seems like a lot of Amazon employees don’t really know which team is in charge of it or how to reach them to troubleshoot it. But it just seems like a lot of this has been moved and has been even more siloed, and it’s just making it harder for sellers to troubleshoot. 

[00:10:48] Chris: But even still, the concept of you don’t need authorization to sell your own brand shouldn’t be something you have to spend 10, 15, 20 minutes explaining to really any level of Amazon employee.

[00:11:00] Leah: Well, and I just find it very interesting that other sellers are still able to list the products. Like they don’t seem to be getting the same restriction on it. Like we’ve had that on a number of cases, where the brand owner is restricted from selling their own products, but other people are still actively selling those products in the interim. So when we first started seeing an influx of these, I thought this was maybe the whole vendor contract thing, where you agree that Amazon can stop you from selling your own product. But that actually hasn’t been the case. Most of the cases I’ve worked on has had no relationship with vendors. So I’m just not sure where these are coming from. Which is where we started talking about maybe this is a new abuse tactic but I’m not sure.

[00:11:38] Chris: That’s the thing. We can close with that. And maybe that’s in defense of some of the Amazon employees who should understand this but don’t. Maybe that’s part of the reason is they’ve seen so much abuse at this point. 

[00:11:48] Leah: Yeah, of course. They take everything with a grain of salt.

And that’s why they make it so hard, because they don’t want somebody to abuse the system. 

[00:11:55] Chris: Right. Or they think that maybe you’re just saying you’re the brand owner, but you’re not. They don’t want to spend the time verifying you as the brand owner. They’re somebody trying social engineering, you know. 

[00:12:04] Leah: But if it’s a brand registered brand, like it clearly identifies in their tools that this account is the brand owner.

[00:12:10] Chris: Is the brand owner. No, I think they believe them when they say it, but they’re worried about other kinds of abuse. From past brand registry attacks, misinformation campaigns, or they’re just tired of this being such a repeated awful thing. And they’re just like, “I don’t know, you have to be authorized to sell this brand”, and that’s just the first thing out of their mouths. We know it’s not just our clients coming to us and asking, we’re seeing this posted on the forums. I think I saw a few tweets that went to social media teams at Amazon about this. So this is an ongoing issue. Whether or not it’s abuse or a glitch or, you know, the ticket was handled by the wrong employee inside Amazon varies.

So, feel free to put examples in front of us so we can kind of help everyone listening figure out what’s going on here, because it’s been going on for a while. I think. 

[00:13:04] Leah: Yeah. I mean, I saw it started seeing the influx in November and December, and we’re still getting a good number of them. I mean, we always had sort of outlier cases like this, but I haven’t seen a big mass of them in a while. But November through to now, we’re still seeing a good amount of people coming in with this issue.

[00:13:23] Chris: Yeah. Follow up with us if you have any examples, questions, or comments on this. And thanks again for listening to seller performance solutions. Thanks, Leah. 

[00:13:33] Leah: Thanks, Chris.

Hosts & Guests

Leah McHugh

Chris McCabe

 

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