Originally published on January 7, 2020, updated October 14, 2020
If you're a third-party seller on the Amazon marketplace, you know how important it is to understand and adhere to Amazon's policies and guidelines. (At least, you should!)
Amazon says, "Seller offenses and prohibited content can result in suspension of your Amazon account." If you happen to get suspended for violating Amazon Terms of Service (TOS), you have to understand what you did wrong in order to properly address the issue when attempting to reinstate your account. Telling Amazon that you didn't understand or know the rules isn't going to work. I'll discuss each of these topics in detail below, but if you'd prefer to jump to a specific section you can click on the link here:
The tricky thing is that Amazon makes changes to the wording and arrangement of the TOS pages frequently. In September 2019, Amazon began redirecting the Prohibited Activities page to a revamped page called Selling Policies and Seller Code of Conduct. This is an improvement in a lot of ways, in that the page provides an exhaustive list of the actions that can get you in trouble on the Amazon marketplace. But, because it is so long, and because it lacks some context, it can still use some interpretation.
Here at eComEngine, we spend a lot of time looking at Amazon's TOS. So, we think you should benefit from our "geeking out" on the subject. Here you will find a breakdown of each section of the Amazon Selling Policies and Seller Code of Conduct page, along with our own interpretations and extrapolations on the meaning of the rules, and why you should follow them.
Amazon first says that as a seller, you must always provide accurate information both to Amazon and to the buyers on the marketplace. Amazon's mission is to "give customers a clear and consistent buying experience." To assist with that, you have to use a business name that identifies you and list all your products in the proper category.
In this section, Amazon gives you a rundown of the practices they find to be unfair. In a nutshell, they want you to be honest, to provide accurate product descriptions and images and to avoid attempting to damage another seller.
Other unfair activities listed in this section cover the use of bots or paying for clicks to artificially inflate traffic, manipulating sales rank or making claims about sales rank in your product descriptions or titles and inflating the price of an item after an order is confirmed. This is all very straightforward and attempts to address a lot of the "black hat" tactics that are being used on the Amazon marketplace.
As the creators of FeedbackFive, the first reputation management solution for Amazon sellers, we spend a lot of time explaining this section of Amazon's TOS to our customers and potential customers. The bottom line is that you are not to try to manipulate seller feedback or product reviews in any way whatsoever. Amazon says, "You may request feedback and reviews from your own customers in a neutral way." But you may not:
Amazon takes product reviews very seriously. Since shoppers can't pick up a product and look at it before purchasing, product reviews are the only means a potential buyer has of evaluating an item pre-purchase.
It's important to note that there is a lot of gray area in the bullets above. Amazon's employees scrutinize reviews prior to allowing them to be live on Amazon.com, and if the way you have requested a product review could be interpreted as breaking one of the rules, you can get restricted from contacting buyers and even get your account suspended. We created a product review guide for Amazon sellers that you may find helpful, as well as a product review compliance checklist you can download and keep handy for reference.
We also recommend that you reference the Customer Product Reviews Policies page in Seller Central for a full list of prohibited activities regarding customer product reviews.
Amazon says that you may not send inappropriate or unsolicited messages to customers. This is confusing, because in the section right above, you are told that you can ask for product reviews and feedback from your own customers. We think that the last sentence in this section, "Marketing communications are prohibited," is the most important. All messages to buyers must go through Amazon's Buyer-Seller Messaging. Unfortunately, many sellers have tried to sneak coupons, links to external sites and other non-compliant marketing messages into Buyer-Seller Messaging. This is explicitly prohibited. Buyer-Seller Messaging exists so sellers can send messages that are necessary for fulfilling an order and to provide customer service.
You should not send more than one request for a seller feedback or review. Never ask a buyer to remove or update an existing product review. Use neutral language and never incentivize a buyer to leave you a rating. Do not include "[Important]" in the subject line unless your message is absolutely necessary to complete the order. Logos should not include your URL or link to your website, and you can't include a link to opt-out of messaging. Do not include links or attachments that aren't needed to complete the order. Never include any content that differs from the contact reason selected on the Contact Buyer page when you send messages directly from Seller Central. Learn more about Amazon's Communication Guidelines.
Neutrally asking for a product review or seller feedback, with no marketing messaging whatsoever, is a customer service best practice. Getting input from a customer about what is working and what you can improve is a way of providing a better customer experience for future customers! Amazon includes a drop-down in Buyer-Seller Messaging for requesting feedback, or you can create your own TOS-compliant message. The Request a Review button on the Order Details page allows you to request a review and feedback in the same message. Tools like FeedbackFive make it easy to send messages through Amazon Buyer-Seller Messaging.
Amazon is committed to protecting customer data. If you're fulfilling orders via FBA, you won't be given buyer personal information. Amazon says that if you see customer information like personal addresses or phone numbers, it's so you can properly fulfill the order and you must delete it after the order has been processed. Amazon says, "You may not use customer information to contact customers (except through Buyer-Seller Messaging) or share it with any third-party. "
Amazon wants Amazon shoppers to stay on Amazon. Period. Attempting to drive a customer away from the Amazon marketplace and complete an order somewhere else is strictly prohibited.
You are not allowed to have more than one selling account, unless you have received permission from Amazon and have a legitimate business need for more than one account.
Additionally, Amazon says that operators of individual selling accounts cannot file infringement notices as an agent of a brand when that could benefit their own account. Let the brand do the filing, especially when filing could hurt a competitor's business.
There are some products that cannot be sold on the Amazon marketplace, either because of legal or regulatory restrictions or Amazon's own policies. In certain product categories, you need Amazon's approval to create listings and you may need to take some extra steps to obtain approval. You can learn more about restricted products, listing restrictions and categories and products requiring approval by visiting the respective pages in Seller Central.
It is important to note that there are many rules about product compliance and safety that all sellers should be aware of and follow. Amazon wants a safe, trustworthy marketplace and customer safety is of utmost importance. To learn more about product safety and compliance, check out this video in Seller University.
Your product detail page is where customers make decisions about whether or not to purchase the products you sell. Because there is so much competition on the Amazon marketplace, many sellers have tried to manipulate their product detail page to snag more sales. There are, of course, TOS complaint ways to optimize your listings and bullet points, but you have to be aware of what you're not allowed to do.
You can find the list of what is not allowed on a product detail page here.
Here's a quick overview of things that you cannot include in your product detail page title, description, bullet points or images:
You cannot add a detail page for an ASIN that already exists. Never use product detail pages to cross-sell or cross-promote and you can't create false ASIN variations or use an existing ASIN detail page for a new color, size, material or name of a product.
Until you establish yourself as a trusted seller on the Amazon marketplace, you'll be subject to an ASIN creation limit. As your sales increase, so will your ability to add new ASINs.
You may not create duplicate ASINs, and you must be very careful about how you use ASIN variations. Amazon says that variation misuse "create(s) a negative customer experience and can result in your ASIN creation or selling privileges being temporarily or permanently revoked."
ASIN variation misuses cases include, but are not limited to:
For all the rules on duplicate ASINs, ASIN variations and more, visit the ASIN Creation Policy page in Seller Central.
To fully understand ASIN variations, we suggest you take a peek at ecommercechris's blog post on the topic.
Amazon says that it is generally acceptable to have a third party fulfill orders to customers on your behalf. You have to be the seller of record for your products and be identified as the seller on all packaging, inserts, invoices and packing slips. You are also responsible for returns. You may not:
Amazon's full Drop Shipping Policy page has more detail.
A product that is being recalled by a government regulatory agency, a brand owner or a manufacturer may not be sold on Amazon. Amazon is notified of recalls a number of ways, and once a recall is announced Amazon will suppress all listings of products impacted by the recall. Amazon also notifies all past customers of a publicly announced recall. Then:
The full process for recalls, in addition to the information you need to include in your Letter of Compliance, is on the Recalled Products page in Seller Central.
This has been a rundown of the main pages linked to from the code of conduct page, but not a full list of all the Terms of Service you must adhere to as a seller on the Amazon marketplace. It was simply our intent to share with you a one-stop place where you could review the ABCs of Amazon TOS.
Of course, you should bookmark the Selling Policies and the Seller Code of Conduct Page and refer back to it often to make sure Amazon hasn't made any changes or updates to the page, and to make sure you are always following Amazon's Terms of Service.
It's all about a seamless, safe and wonderful customer experience. Happy selling!
Please note: it is up to you, as a seller on the Amazon marketplace, to draw your own conclusions about TOS and how you should conduct your business. We are attempting to provide a little clarity, but if you have questions you shouldn't hesitate to reach out to your contact at Amazon. These policies are subject to change.
Originally published on January 7, 2020, updated October 14, 2020
This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.