Amazon has been taking product compliance increasingly seriously over the past couple of years. It realizes that one reason many people trust Amazon above, say, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, is that it’s a regulated market – Amazon only allows approved sellers, and actively polices their publicity, pricing, and sales records. Product compliance is another piece of this regulatory jigsaw.
You’ll have to comply with some basic regulations wherever you’re marketing, even if it’s just putting a country of origin label on your goods or noting the ingredients. Obviously, if you’re creating a product that claims to be eco-friendly, you’d better have evidence to back up your claims. This is the most basic level of compliance documentation.
But with a lot of types of products, you’ll also have to comply with regulations enshrined in law – federal or state law, or European law in the case of Amazon.fr and Amazon.de, for instance.
Amazon’s categories requiring seller pre-approval are those where there’s the most focus – beauty and cosmetics, electronics, and jewelry. But Amazon is also tightening up on products that could pose safety risks to purchasers, such as food, health supplements, and kids’ stuff.
Even if you’re already selling a product successfully, it’s worth checking that you’re up to date on your documentation. Amazon will usually focus on checking new products, but an internal audit or a customer complaint could spark an investigation of existing products too.
So what do you need to do?
First of all, never assume your supplier will help, and certainly don’t assume they will produce conforming products without being asked. If you require compliance, for instance for the CE European certification mark or FSC timber sourcing, you need to make that an explicit part of your specifications and you need to spell out exactly what documentation you need. You also need to specify what needs to go on the label. If you’re buying from a domestic supplier you’ll probably be okay – but only for your domestic market; if you’re buying from China or elsewhere, you need to be very specific.
Remember that if a supplier uses subcomponents, they’ll usually have a paper trail, but won’t test the components themselves. It may be worth your getting testing done with Intertek or SGS, but of course, this will be an extra cost.
Second, make sure you have covered obligatory requirements but also look for voluntary standards – if there are any customer issues with products, Amazon might require these standards to be applied, as it has done with hoverboards. Amazon is super careful about its reputation, so it’s likely to require more rather than less compliance, over and above the legal minimum, if there have been any complaints or problems.
And make sure that if you make claims that your product is antibacterial or antimicrobial, eco-friendly, environmentally produced, ‘green’, or has health benefits, you can prove them. If not, Amazon is not going to be happy for you to use that language on your product pages.
At least Amazon has introduced tools to help you cope with compliance. First of all, there’s the Compliance Reference tool, which can show you information on compliance policies for most products (though not all products are on board as yet).
And once you have the documentation you need, you can use the Manage Your Compliance (MYC) Dashboard to submit it, whether for an individual ASIN or in bulk. The dashboard also shows your approval status.
The big problem, though, comes when requirements change. If you are only trading in one product category and only in the US, you’ll probably find out, but if you are trading across several Amazon marketplaces with different products, you might not. It’s worth getting an expert on board – and you can use the Compliance Reference tool to find one.
Compliance is something most of us find tedious – but you really don’t want to run any risks here, because if you get it wrong, Amazon could make your life very difficult.