What’s Not Allowed on Amazon

Amazon regulates its marketplace to protect buyers. Obviously, it doesn’t want anyone buying a counterfeit product or one that could be harmful to customers. That’s why it prohibits some activities.

It’s also worth noting that Amazon’s rules protect you as a seller, for instance stopping other vendors from stealing your brand.

So let’s see what you’re not allowed to do.

First off: you’re not allowed to encourage buyers to leave Amazon and go direct to your website. Don’t put links on your product page (though you can generally include a marketing package inside your product pack). Don’t tell buyers they can get a better price buying direct.

You mustn’t take over the relationship between Amazon and the customer. For instance, you’re not allowed to send buyers marketing emails. Their email addresses are only to be used in fulfilling their order and dealing with customer service. And phone numbers are only there so you can print them on the shipping labels if required – you’re not allowed to keep them, pass them on, or phone customers up for any reason. Your only communications with customers should be through the Amazon messaging service.

Secondly, you’re not allowed to deceive shoppers. You can’t use a trademark that belongs to someone else, or use a misleading name. You can’t call your sports shoes Nike, Adidas, or Apple. You can’t call your business any of those things either.

And thirdly, you’re not allowed to cheat the review system. Customers need to be able to rely on reviews when they’re making a purchase decision, so those reviews need to be real and independent. You must not offer any kind of incentive to buyers to provide reviews, or to provide a good review rather than a one-star. You mustn’t provide fake reviews, or review your own products – and you mustn’t review your competitors’ products either.

You can ask buyers for a review, but in neutral terms. So saying “if you enjoyed the product, please leave a review” is bending the rules; instead, say “we’re always interested in learning about our customers’ experience, so please leave a review.”

The fourth big no-no is cheating the search engine. This is something you find a lot of on eBay, where there are listings like ‘Pretty handbag not Hermes not Louis Vuitton not Prada’. Amazon wants to make sure if someone is searching for a Prada handbag, they find a Prada handbag, not a no-name, a Gucci, or anything else. Amazon bars this, but also prohibits artificial traffic (eg using internet bots to boost clicks on your products).

And the fifth major prohibition is that you cannot have more than one seller account. This is crucial – particularly if you once had an account, closed that business but didn’t get round to closing the account. There are some limited exceptions if you have a valid business reason, or if you have two very different businesses or brands. For instance, if you had one business offering dog-related products, and another selling fashion handbags, you’d want ‘Butch’s Bones’ and ‘Pretty Bags’ not to get mixed up, wouldn’t you?

But to do that, Amazon requires you to manage the two businesses separately – with different bank accounts as well as business names. And the more separate you can keep the businesses (different contacts, business addresses, phone numbers) the better.

Remember to pay attention to messages from Amazon in case they change the rules. They have done so a couple of times on reviews, for instance. That’s only to be expected – every business tries to get better over time – but it does mean you can get tripped up if you don’t keep well informed.

And if you’re feeling a bit depressed by all those prohibitions, don’t be; Amazon is a great place to sell – and these rules should keep it that way.

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