Amazon Terms of Service: A Quick Recap

When you signed up to be an Amazon Seller, you agreed to a long list of seller policies and terms of use. Over time, the Amazon Terms of Service can become a distant memory and as Q4 ramps up, you may be looking for tactics to push your sales. In the flurry of the holiday season, it is easy to make a rash decision that might fall on the wrong side of the rules, risking future sales or your entire Amazon business.

 

 

Luckily, we are here to give you a quick refresher on the important policies and regulations to help keep your account safe. We have compiled an overview of Amazon Terms of Service, including code of conduct, selling policies and prohibited actions to jog your memory and help you avoid any questionable tactics.

Let’s get started!

Seller Code of Conduct

Amazon strives to provide a safe and trustworthy online marketplace for millions of customers across the globe. They require sellers to adhere by a strict code of conduct to ensure shoppers trust their purchases and continue to return to the site. This code of conduct also protects you as a seller in that it keeps your competitors from using unfair tactics to outsell you and other rule-following sellers.

If Amazon discovers that you have violated their Code of Conduct, they typically take quick action. This can include suspending your seller privileges and/or removing you from the entire Amazon Marketplace.

Amazon Selling Policies

In order to protect consumers, Amazon has rules and requirements on what types of products can be sold on their site. Be sure you are not planning to sell any questionable items on the marketplace. Amazon does not allow you to list products that:

Prohibited Seller Actions

Amazon prohibits certain actions by sellers in order to protect both sellers themselves and shoppers. The site does its best to keep the playing field level for all sellers, so any action that gives you an unfair advantage over your competitors is not permitted. Chances are if you are worried whether a tactic you are considering using may be against the rules, it probably is. Here is a quick recap of some prohibited actions:

1. Diverting traffic from Amazon

Sellers are not permitted to use any sort of language or web links that push traffic away from the Amazon website. This includes any advertisements, special offers or calls to action that encourage shoppers to leave the site.

2. Unauthorized business names

All business names must accurately identify the seller, must not mislead shoppers and must be a name that the seller is permitted to use (i.e. it cannot be a brand or trademarked name that you do not have appropriate permission to use). Business names cannot contain an email suffix (i.e. .com, .biz, .net, etc.).

3. Inappropriate email communications

Sellers are not allowed to send any unsolicited emails to customers other than those needed for order fulfillment or customer service. Marketing emails to customers are not permitted.

4. Improper use of customer phone numbers

Customer phone numbers are provided to sellers who fulfill their own orders so they are able to comply with carrier label requirements. These phone numbers must be handled in accordance with Amazon’s customer personal information policy, which can be found in the Seller Agreement.

5. Multiple seller accounts

Sellers are not permitted to operate and maintain multiple seller accounts. If you have a legitimate business need for multiple accounts, you can apply for an exception by visiting the Contact Us section of your seller account. Click on Selling on Amazon, then select Your Account, then Other Account Issues. You must provide an explanation of your need for multiple accounts in your submission.

6. Misuse of the Amazon seller service

Sellers that upload excessive amounts of data repeatedly or use the service in an excessive or unreasonable way may face restricted or blocked access to product feeds or any other function they are misusing. Amazon decides what constitutes this misuse at their own discretion.

7. Misuse of ratings, feedbacks or reviews

Sellers are strictly prohibited from engaging in any action that may manipulate ratings, feedback, or reviews. This includes offering incentives to customers for their reviews or ratings, posting feedback to your own account, etc. You are allowed to ask for reviews in a neutral manner, but you are not allowed to ask for positive reviews. Sellers must also comply with Amazon’s Community Guidelines when dealing with customer reviews.

8. Misuse of sales rank

Sellers are prohibited from engaging in actions that manipulate sales rank. This includes soliciting or knowingly accepting fake orders, placing orders for your own products or providing compensation to shoppers for buying your products. Sellers are also not allowed to make claims about their sales rank in their product information.

9. Misuse of search and browse

Any attempt to manipulate the Search and Browse experience of shoppers is prohibited. This includes artificially stimulating customer traffic through internet bots, etc., providing misleading catalog information about your product, or adding product identifiers to hidden keyword attributes. Follow Amazon’s guide to properly optimize listings in order to write your listing in compliance with Amazon’s rules.

10. Misuse of product customization

Those products that are listed as being customizable must be able to deliver on this claim. Any attempt to manipulate custom functionality in a manner which bypasses existing Amazon policies or misrepresents customized products is prohibited.

Know the Rules, Follow the Rules

Amazon does not take violations of their terms of service lightly. At best, you may get flagged and temporarily suspended. At worst, you could be banned completely by the online retailer, stopping your cash flow and dashing all hopes of future sales.

Though it may be tempting at times to try questionable tactics to boost sales, it is not worth the risk. You may see some of your competitors breaking the rules to get ahead, and while they may not get caught immediately, Amazon almost always catches up to sellers who are abusing their terms of service.

We at Viral Launch are here to provide TOS compliant solutions to help your listing pick up speed and generate sales. From professional photography to optimized listings, we have a team of experts ready to get to work for you. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help you!

Disclaimer or No? FTC Guidelines on Reviews Left on Discounted Amazon Purchases

We are back with more information surrounding Amazon’s latest TOS update. I really don’t intend on “milking” this subject, but there is simply so much misinformation/rumors, it’s crazy. This misinformation leads to poor decisions and more misinformation, so I would like to do my best to clear up everything as quickly as possible. The team and I have had a good number of questions/comments around the FTC’s guidelines for reviews on products purchased at a discount. While I am not a lawyer, it seems pretty clear to me that reviews left on discounted purchases DO NOT require a disclosure statement to be left. Below, I break things down a bit further with quotes from the FTC.gov website, specifically pages around Endorcements.

As always, I do not expect you to believe me simply because I’ve said it. I am obviously a biased party here, so I have included links and quotes to help you make informed decisions and interpretations for yourself (but again, it seems pretty clear to me)!

 

Logical Breakdown

At the heart of it all, the FTC is concerned with reviews that are left by experts/bloggers/reviewers/etc. who were provided some type of compensation for the review. The intention of promotional services is simply offering discounts on Amazon products, period. Whether or not those buyers happen to leave a review is beyond our concern. Obviously we hope they leave a review for your sake, but it is beyond our company’s scope. To comply with Amazon’s TOS, we simply cannot track whether or not a buyer leaves a review. This is also not to get confused with email follow-up services, which are completely separate.

Think about popular deals websites like Slickdeals or RetailMeNot. Do you find any kind of language on their sites that let you know, “If you use one of the many coupons you find on our site and chose to leave a review, you must use a disclosure or else you will be violating the FTC’s guidelines.”? No, you do not. Nor do you see stipulations when reviewing products on other websites (ex. Walmart.com) that require a disclosure on products purchased with a discount code.

So simply by omission, I can assume that a disclosure is not required if you did indeed purchase/select the product yourself. The only reason this was ever a thing on Amazon is two-fold, 1) Amazon’s terms required it, and 2) when products were given away in exchange for a review, the FTC saw this as an endorsement which then warranted a disclosure statement.

If the product was given in exchange for a review, you were provided some form of compensation before or after, or you have some type of connection to the company, then the reviewer HAS to leave a disclosure allowing the reader to know the given circumstances.

Viral Launch is not giving products in exchange for a review. We are not providing compensation to buyers to leave reviews, nor do our buyers have connections with you as a seller/marketer. Therefore, there is no need for buyers of discounted products on Viral Launch to leave a disclosure statement.

 

Quotes From the FTC

This one seals the deal in my mind. On a very clear and concise page that covers common questions around endorsements on the FTC’s website, we find this question under the headline: “WHEN DOES THE FTC ACT APPLY TO ENDORSEMENTS?“.

For the sake of our topic, replace the word “blogger” and “blog” with “reviewer” and “review”. (The highlighting/bolding is my emphasis.)

“I’m a blogger. I heard that every time I mention a product on my blog, I have to say whether I got it for free or paid for it myself. Is that true?”

No. If you mention a product you paid for yourself, there isn’t an issue. Nor is it an issue if you get the product for free because a store is giving out free samples to its customers.

The FTC is only concerned about endorsements that are made on behalf of a sponsoring advertiser. For example, an endorsement would be covered by the FTC Act if an advertiser – or someone working for an advertiser – pays you or gives you something of value to mention a product. If you receive free products or other perks with the expectation that you’ll promote or discuss the advertiser’s products in your blog, you’re covered. Bloggers who are part of network marketing programs where they sign up to receive free product samples in exchange for writing about them also are covered.

 

As you can see, it is pretty clear that there is no need for a disclosure if the buyer/reviewer pays for the item. There is also no need to provide a disclosure if the product is given for free, so long as it is not given with compensation or in exchange for a review.

Hopefully, that makes you feel comfortable with the fact that the FTC does not require a review to contain a disclosure statement if the reviewer purchased the product at a discount from sites like Viral Launch.

As further examples, I’ve included a couple other quotes from different pages on the FTC’s website.

 

If you visit this link here, you will be taken to the U.S. Government Publishing Office discussing “GUIDES CONCERNING USE OF ENDORSEMENTS AND TESTIMONIALS IN ADVERTISING”. This is a bit harder to understand and has the traditional lawyer speak that you may expect. Going through all of their given examples under the headline “Consumer endorsements” and “Disclosure of material connections”, you will find only examples where compensation is provided either before or after the fact. There are no examples provided in which a customer purchases the product at a discount and is required to leave a disclosure.

 

On a page labeled “THE FTC’S ENDORSEMENT GUIDES: BEING UP-FRONT WITH CONSUMERS”, we find these two quotes.

 

Quote 1:

“… marketers who are compensated to promote or review a product should disclose it.”

Quote 2:

“The Endorsement Guides also state that if there is a connection between the endorser and the marketer of a product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.”

 

These both show that only when compensation is provided or the product is given in exchange for a review is the disclosure statement needed.

 

Using Follow-up Services

Is it within Amazon’s terms of service to solicit a review after a customer has purchased a product? YES. As I mentioned in our previous blog post, we have confirmation from Amazon’s legal department that following up with a buyer asking for a review is completely within Amazon’s TOS so long as it is done correctly. How do you follow-up correctly? That is another post in itself, but briefly, do not incentivize, require, or manipulate the review/reviewer in any way.

One thing that I want to point out is the fact that you should NOT tell reviewers that they cannot leave the disclosure statement in their review. By telling a reviewer they cannot leave the disclosure, in my mind, you are manipulating the content of the review by telling the reviewer what it can/cannot contain.

Our approach to this situation is to inform the buyer that Amazon’s TOS is no longer requiring the disclosure statement, “I purchased this product at a discount in exchange….”. We also let them know that the product was not given in exchange for their review and that they may choose whether or not they decide to review it.

It is simply a question of semantics, but can be critical when adhering to Amazon’s TOS.

 

Conclusion

Hopefully this brief discussion on the FTC’s rules clear up any rumors and/or misinformation that has been floating around. As always, it’s our goal to help you make the most informed decisions possible when it comes to operating and growing your Amazon business.

Overall, it looks like this is further proof that a major intention of Amazon’s latest policy update was simply to rid reviews of the disclosure statement so as to improve the perceived integrity of their review platform to consumers.

 

If you have any other questions, curious about rumors, or anything of the sort, please post them in the comments down below so I can address them for you!

As always, I wish you the best in growing your Amazon business!