Managing and removing the other sellers that will list against product pages is a multi-step process, and while reducing unauthorized/counterfeit sellers is the goal; it's important to note that completely eliminating them from listings is usually not possible.
This comes down to the fact that product listing pages on Amazon are generally "open" to any sellers with an identical product for sale. This, combined with the popularity of certain brand’s products means that counterfeiters, large (unauthorized) liquidators, and even private individuals, will continue to make attempts to list against the brand’s product pages for profit.
Unless someone is selling a counterfeit version of your product, you won’t find much support from Amazon in removing them from your listings—simply put, Amazon doesn’t view unauthorized sellers as violators of their policies. This might seem like dire news for anyone trying to grow their business by selling on Amazon, but it’s possible to be successful in dealing with unauthorized sellers despite them being officially in the legal clear.
To combat this, our approach here at Bobsled Marketing is to use a framework that:
- Deals with the short-term issue of removing sellers from the listings through active monitoring and action.
- Builds a body of evidence (seller IDs, unauthorized seller names) that can be used to restrict the listings from unauthorized sellers (Brand Gating).
- Provides recommendations for the brand’s team to explore (such as MAP policies, and establishing e-retail territories).
How to protect your brand as a Vendor against unauthorized sellers on Amazon
Even if you’re just getting started on Amazon, and don’t have a comprehensive plan like we do, there are a few tested methods to keep more control of who, where, and how your products get sold on Amazon.
1. Apply for the Amazon Brand Registry
This relatively easy program to apply for (if you’re the manufacturer or OEM of the product in question) ensures that others can’t make changes to your page. It doesn’t stop others from listing your products, but it does certify you as the genuine owner, which carries weight. Perhaps more importantly, being in the registry sets you up for later steps you can take to actually stop unauthorized sellers.
2. Send “cease and desist” letters
Even though unauthorized sellers aren’t breaking Amazon’s rules, sometimes a stern message is all that it takes to get someone off your back. If they know you’re watching, they’ll likely go elsewhere to make their quick buck.
3. Put distribution agreements into place
Outline exactly what products can be sold for what price in a distribution agreement with your retail partners and distributors. Including a MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) policy can also help to prevent having several Third Party Sellers engaging in a price war on your product assortment in an attempt to win the Buy Box. But don’t rely on such agreements to help much, as Amazon does nothing to enforce them. It can also be challenging to discover which of your distributors is breaking an agreement, or selling inventory to sellers who are.
4. Remember that Amazon is not a “set and forget” program
Protecting your brand’s integrity on Amazon can be tough work at times, but the worst thing you can do is spend time getting on the platform and then letting it unravel as others take advantage of your products. You need to monitor your listings and those of your competitors on at least a weekly basis in order to get the full picture of the risks and potential rewards.
And, finally, Brand Gating
All of this leads us to one more potential solution to the unauthorized/counterfeit seller problem: Brand Gating. This program, which is available to large brands on Amazon, allows them to "lock" a brand's listings and prevent other Sellers from selling their products. Overall, the Brand Gating process is murky for lack of a better term, and it's not guaranteed for all brands.
Success will be dependent on persistence, vigilance, and quick responses to Amazon if they inquire further. It's very heavy in terms of information gathering, as we're essentially building a very strong case for a brand on why it should be brand-gated.
Here is an overview of the Brand Gating process:
1. Prior to starting, you’ll have to verify Brand Registration status on Amazon.
2. You will need to gather any (external) documentation on brand ownership (such as any legal documentation on trademarks; trademark certificates; registered business details).
3. The brand owner will then need to provide a history of counterfeit listings and submit evidence of counterfeit sellers including:
a. An example of this would be the fact that your brand manufacturers its own products, and maintains a specific list of authorized sellers.
b. Any negative customer reviews that identify a particular seller with counterfeit products.
c. Attempts to identify and warn counterfeit sellers (such as Cease and Desist notices).
The ideal outcome of the Brand Gating process is to restrict the other sellers to "authorized" resellers only and eliminate any unauthorized/counterfeit sellers on the product pages.
Where to go next
If all of this sounds like a little bit too steep of a learning curve just for selling your brand’s products on Amazon, there’s help out there. Aside from resources you can find online—we have more details on removing counterfeit products or protecting your Buy Box from competitors on our very own blog—you just might need expert attention for your brand on Amazon.