Amazon’s UPC Policy—Best Tread Carefully!

By Buy Box Experts on August 22, 2016

I’m not saying that 3rd Party Sellers are guilty of criminal or “pirate-like” activity. No… not in the traditional sense, but maybe in the modern day, “online seas” pirate sense. At least from Amazon’s perspective and where Amazon’s product catalogue is concerned.

When Amazon uses the words, may result in your ASIN creation or selling privileges being temporarily or permanently removed in any of their policies, it’s a major red flag and worthy of our attention.

So what does it mean? It means Amazon is serious about cleaning up their product catalogue.

It also means:

  • Amazon does not like duplicate listing pages.
  • Major brand owners do not like duplicate listing pages.
  • Shoppers do not like duplicate listing pages

Here’s some data to put this into perspective:

In 2012, Amazon’s catalogue size was just over 150 million products. In 2013, it was over 200 million. Fast forward to 2015 and the catalogue size has ballooned to over 400 million products. There are reportedly over 5 million suspected duplicate products in the catalogue to date.

Duplicate products means duplicate product item listing pages. Personally, I feel this duplicate number is far too conservative. Working in our business, we are constantly doing our due diligence, and submitting cases almost daily to Amazon to merge ASINs of duplicate listings.

How is Amazon attempting to combat this?

Well, it looks like they are attempting to police the source. The manufacturer’s standard product ID is a unique identifier. This is usually a UPC or EAN for the product. Amazon wants to minimize duplicate ASINs by eliminating new UPCs being used for existing products.

The reverse is also true if a seller lists a product on Amazon, but without a valid UPC for the product before the manufacturer or brand owner does. In order for Amazon to accomplish this task, two things are required:

  • Go through existing products to identify duplicates and remove them.
  • Prevent new duplicates of existing products.

Going forward, it appears that the best practice is to only use valid GS1 UPCs for your products. A lot of 3rd Party Sellers obtain their UPCs from places like eBay, which sells them on the cheap. While these UPCs may work for now, they probably won’t in the very near future.

You can take a quick look at Amazon’s policy on that right here:

Product UPCs and GTINs

There are two points that need to be highlighted:

  • We verify the authenticity of product UPCs by checking the GS1 database.
  • All invalid product UPC listings will be removed and may result in your ASIN creation or selling privileges being temporarily or permanently removed.

Amazon goes on to state:

UPCs that do not match the information provided by GS1 will be considered invalid. We recommend obtaining your UPCs directly from GS1 (and not from other third parties selling UPC licenses) to ensure the appropriate information is reflected in the GS1 database.

There you have it.

If Amazon sellers decide to use a source other than GS1 for your UPCs, then they are playing Russian Roulette and at some point in the near future, will likely experience their products being tagged as invalid and removed. In fact, some sellers are already experiencing this.

Currently, this seems to be impacting those sellers who “Bundle” their products the most. In simple terms, “bundling” is taking two or more products and placing them into one product listing. Listings that mix brand named products with generic products have the highest chance of being removed.

If you are a seller who offers bundled listings, I strongly suggest you review this Amazon policy page: Product Bundling Policy.

The following Bundling Policy points are noteworthy:

  • The bundle must have its own standard product identifier or manufacturer part number.
  • The identifier of any individual product in the bundle may not serve as the identifier for the bundle.
  • Using a UPC from any single product in the bundle to identify the entire bundle may lead to immediate removal of the listing.
  • Do not bundle branded products with generic products.

It is, now more than ever, important for sellers to be aware and familiar with Amazon’s policies, or risk product listing removal and possibly account suspension.

Our advice? Tread carefully these ecommerce waters…

To learn even more about Amazon’s product catalogue cleanup, check out these links:

Buy Box Experts
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