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What To Do About Counterfit and Unauthorized Items on Amazon

Userby MapCop
Amazon's lax policies on resales make it a haven for counterfeiters and unauthorized sellers, as well as a headache for manufacturers. Some big-name companies have already quit the online marketplace, including sandal makers Birkenstock. While Amazon will act against counterfeiters, they do not enforce MAP policies, and so resellers can easily undercut authorized retailers and even capture the all-important Buy Box, directing large numbers of sales their way.

Counterfeit Hunting

Before submitting a counterfeiting complaint to Amazon, you are required to carry out a test buy of the suspect product, as the complaints process requires an order ID. This can be a lengthy procedure: many suspicious sellers are based abroad, with correspondingly long shipping times, and there is often more than one retailer to investigate.

Once you have the suspect item, be as thorough as possible in documenting the similarities and differences between it and a genuine product. When gathering evidence, focus as much as possible on how the counterfeit product affects the customer. Analyze the packaging as well as the product, identifying every element that you can find: logos, colors, images and fonts as well as product names. As for the product itself, take it apart if you need to. One telltale sign to look for is the weight of the purchased product. Counterfeit items are typically made from cheaper, lower-quality materials, and so the weight is likely to be different to the genuine product.

The requirement to perform test buys is also a great reason to serialize your products. An unserialized product is clearly a counterfeit, whereas one with a serial number could help you to identify leaks in your supply chain.

Preventing unauthorized sales

While counterfeiters can do plenty of damage to your brand's reputation, unauthorized sellers selling genuine goods can be more dangerous. As a matter of policy, Amazon will not ban sellers simply for violating MAP. Their stance on the matter is that MAP policies are between the manufacturer and their sellers, and that their customers are best served by lower prices. Furthermore, suppliers working a “third shift” can quickly produce large numbers of products that are indistinguishable from your own, and taking legal action against them can be difficult. Under “first sale” doctrines, it is extremely difficult for manufacturers to legally control downstream sales of their products. Once a product has been sold, it can be resold perfectly legally. Luckily, there are a few strategies that you can use to remove MAP violators under Amazon's rules.

One common strategy is to use product warranties and service packages as a weapon against unauthorized sellers. This strategy is particularly useful when you already performed a test buy and discovered that the product was in fact genuine. It is perfectly legal to offer a warranty that is only valid when the product is purchased from an authorized retailer (in other words, a retailer that cooperates with your MAP policy). If you offer such a warranty, unauthorized resellers cannot match it. This means that their product becomes materially different from yours, and therefore cannot be listed as new on your Amazon product page without falling foul of their anti-counterfeiting rules. It also means that, if necessary, you can potentially sue.

If you choose to go down this route, publish a list of authorized sellers on your website. This will help to direct traffic to your retail partners, while dissuading customers from buying from retailers not on the list.

Emergency Measures

If all else fails, consider refreshing your product and starting a new listing on Amazon. It still isn't a good idea to abandon the old listing to the resellers, but creating a new listing with an improved product will make it that much easier to capture the buy box and direct customers away from the older, inferior product.

This strategy isn't ideal: developing a new product isn't cheap, and continuing to work with the same suppliers may lead to it quickly entering unauthorized resale channels. It should therefore be deployed alongside other measures, such as introducing a limited warranty or serializing your products to track leaks in the supply chain.
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