“You are a counterfeiter.”
Do you assume your Amazon seller account would never be labeled as fencing counterfeit goods? Think again. Fake ungating can get you shut down.
By Lesley Hensell
Amazon is on a mission: detect and shut down counterfeiters. Unfortunately, many sellers are engaging in a behavior that can get them branded a counterfeiter and permanently banned from the platform – even if they never purchased, listed or sold a questionable product. Fake ungating.
Several of our recent clients submitted forged invoices to Amazon’s category department in an effort to be ungated at the category, brand or ASIN level:
- Many don’t want to invest in expensive inventory that they ultimately cannot sell if their ungating effort fails.
- Some submit real invoices, but Amazon doesn’t accept them. There are many reasons this can happen.
- In too many cases, we’ve been told that “someone on the forums” or “a web site” said submitting a fake invoice was the ticket to being ungated.
Our clients had no intention of selling fake goods. Some of them already had true, verifiable inventory sitting in their warehouses. So what harm could a fake invoice possibly do?
As my colleague Kelly observed today, “Clearly, Category is reviewing these invoices and then connecting to Seller Performance to bring down the hammer of rage and justice.”
In other words, what is submitted to Category for ungating does not stay in Category for ungating. Amazon expects sellers to submit true, verifiable, real invoices – every single time. Think about it. If they cannot trust your invoices for ungating purposes, why would they be able to trust your invoices for verifying item authenticity or condition if a buyer complains?
What happens when a seller submits an invoice?
- It is reviewed by a machine and by a human.
- The machine compares it to other invoices in Amazon’s massive databases. The human compares it to common sense and other variables.
- If fraud, editing or other shenanigans are detected, the invoices are referred to Seller Performance.
- Seller Performance deactivates the account immediately.
- The seller is given an opportunity to appeal.
- Seller Performance rejects the appeal and notifies the seller that their funds will be help by Amazon – PERMANENTLY – for counterfeit/fraud.
It’s swift, ugly, and difficult to reverse.
How can you prevent this happening to your company? Riverbend offers these suggestions:
- Establish, explain and pound into your team that you have a no-tolerance policy for manipulating, editing or modifying documents.
- Create layers of review for any and all invoices submitted to Amazon. Require the purchasing department to sign-off on all invoices as true before they are submitted. In addition, require a management-level sign-off.
- Assign your most trusted team member to manage submissions of invoices to Amazon.
- Do your research on what barriers to entry exist for being ungated in various categories and brands. Knowledge is power.
- Don’t try to do too much too soon. Many new sellers think there’s a “holy grail” category or brand that they MUST sell, and then will do questionable things to achieve that goal.
- Seek advice from reputable sources. If you are having difficulty with Amazon, or they are rejecting your invoices, reach out to someone who knows how to work with Amazon the legitimate, right way. For example, a recent client who submitted fake invoices tried submitting real invoices first – but was rejected. At one glance, our team knew why they were not accepted.
- Avoid advice from people who think they can fool Amazon and its amazing fraud-detecting technologies. This includes anonymous people on forums, IG influencers with no profile picture, random sellers and Twitterers.
One fake invoice can end you on Amazon – permanently. It’s not worth any new product to sell or category to compete.
If your valid and true invoices aren’t being accepted by Amazon because they suspect fake ungating, give us a call. Or, if you need help ensuring your submissions to Amazon are safe – every time – Riverbend Consulting can help. Contact us.
Lesley is Partner at Riverbend Consulting, she offers practical know-how to improve retail performance. Lesley’s experience with Amazon compliance gets accounts back up fast.