Over the weekend, Amazon (quietly) updated their Prohibited Seller Activities. Naturally, this has caused some confusion for Amazon sellers as some of the additions are quite vague. As with all of Amazon’s policy updates over the years, sellers become concerned that they may inadvertently violation the new terms. It certainly doesn’t help, when there is conflicting information online. This further fuels the fire.
We wanted to take this time to address each of the additions, and further explain their meanings. We’re going to break down each section. Please pay attention to the purple, underlined areas (emphasis ours), as these are the portions of concern.
- Misuse of ratings, feedback, or reviews: Any attempt to manipulate ratings, feedback, or reviews is prohibited.
- Ratings and feedback: The rating and feedback features allow buyers to evaluate the overall performance of a seller, helping sellers to develop a reputation within the Amazon Marketplace. You may not post abusive or inappropriate feedback or include personal information about a transaction partner. This also includes posting ratings or feedback to your own account. You may request feedback from a buyer, however you may not pay or offer any incentive to a buyer for either providing or removing feedback.
WHAT THIS MEANS
Amazon strictly prohibits sellers from providing reviewers with any form of compensation. You can provide your products for free, or a discounted rate in exchange for an honest review, but you cannot offer an incentive of any kind. This means you are not allowed to bribe the reviewer – which, of course, would likely result in a positive review on products that may not deserve it. This is a blatant abuse of the system and will put your seller account at risk.
- Reviews: Reviews are important to the Amazon Marketplace, providing a forum for feedback about product and service details and reviewers’ experiences with products and services — positive or negative. You may not write reviews for products or services that you have a financial interest in, including reviews for products or services that you or your competitors sell. Additionally, you may not provide compensation for a review other than a free copy of the product. If you offer a free product, it must be clear that you are soliciting an unbiased review. The free product must be provided in advance. No refunds are permitted after the review is written. You may not intentionally manipulate your products’ rankings, including by offering an excessive number of free or discounted products, in exchange for a review. Review solicitations that ask for only positive reviews or that offer compensation are prohibited. You may not ask buyers to remove negative reviews.
WHAT THIS MEANS
The first emphasized section, is redundant. This is reiteration of what was previously mentioned in the first section we discussed. The reason we’ve highlighted this area again, is to point out the part that says you can offer free products. Some of the confusion (and fear) that we’re seeing, revolves around this specific issue. Sellers are afraid that offering their products for free, is somehow in violation of Amazon’s policy updates. We wanted to specifically focus on this section, to show you that it’s still acceptable and encouraged.
Now, the second section we highlighted, talks about offering an “excessive” number of free or discounted products. This is where things get vague. The word excessive, is open to interpretation. What one user finds to be excessive (example: drinking an entire pot of coffee by yourself), another user may find to be normal (I myself drink almost 2 pots a day). So, how do we define an undefinable word? It’s quite simple, actually. You must first determine what the “norm” is.
Your average Amazon seller, receives approximately 30 sales per day. If there’s a substantial influx in sales (say, 500 units the following day), which then drops back to 30 the day after, this would be considered excessive. This is a highly unusual event in terms of averages. There are cases where this happens organically, but that’s not the norm (there’s that word again). This is typically seen when email blasts are done (which we don’t do), or a generic coupon code is used – which always ends up leaked online (it’s why we only use unique coupon codes).
This does not mean that you cannot use advertising services like Dollar Deal Reviews. What it means, is that you should be leery of services that have no control over the distribution of your coupon codes, or who do one big push and that’s that. The old saying “slow and steady wins the race” is extremely relevant here.
You can still distribute coupon codes to as many users as you wish, but there has to be consistency. You can easily increase your average, through steady promotion. While we would love to give you an exact number of units that should be distributed per day, there’s no “one size fits all” answer. We do, however, have a solution.
For one flat fee, you can purchase an “Ultimate” campaign, which includes the distribution of an unlimited amount of coupon codes (for 1 product), for the life of your membership on DollarDealReviews.com. We will happily limit the number of coupon codes that are available to our users on a daily basis. That means you can do (for example), 25 units a day, every day. This creates a steady flow, which in turn, boosts your average, while also eliminating any unusual spikes.
- Misuse of sales rank: The best seller rank feature allows buyers to evaluate the popularity of a product. You may not solicit or knowingly accept fake or fraudulent orders. This includes placing orders for your own products. You may not provide compensation to buyers for purchasing your products or provide claim codes to buyers for the purpose of inflating sales rank. In addition, you may not make claims regarding a product’s best seller rank in the product detail page information, including the title and description.
WHAT THIS MEANS
Once again, this is a bit redundant, but they’ve gone into more detail. As always, providing compensation to those who review your products, is not allowed. I think we can all agree that doing so, is very clearly against the rules. The part we’re focusing on, is where they said you cannot “provide claim codes to buyers for the purpose of inflating sales rank”.
Sales ranks are calculated, in part, by the amount of users who purchase your product (regardless of whether or not a coupon code is used). There have been numerous reports of sellers who have intentionally tried to manipulate the system, by providing multiple coupon codes for the same product, to the same users. Amazon’s system only allows a user to leave one review for each product.
If a user is purchasing the same product over and over again, using a coupon code that make the product free or nearly free, this sends up a red flag. There’s no acceptable reason for the same user to be able to repeatedly purchase that product for little to nothing out of pocket. That’s not to say that you can’t provide a discount on their future orders. You can certainly seek repeat business. You just cannot offer the product for free (or close to it) to a large number of users who have already received it for little to nothing. A more acceptable discount to offer, would be 30% OFF a future order, when they purchase 2 or more units.
Our system is actually setup to prevent users from receiving more than one coupon code for the same product. This is called “purchase limits”. Users can only claim one coupon code per product. After they’ve claimed a code for said product, their ability to claim another, is disabled.
Some sellers were convincing users to purchase their product, and then cancel their orders. This caused Amazon’s system to document an increase in sales, while in reality, no such sales existed as all orders were cancelled. I think it’s pretty self explanatory as to why that’s not allowed.
The second highlighted section above, discusses false claims. We’ve all seen listings on Amazon that claim to be the best, or #1, for the item they’re selling. You’ll often see these references in the title, bullet points and/or product description. At no time, should any such claim be made. Amazon has it’s own system in place, that ranks the “best” and “#1” sellers. Even if you end up at the top of that list, you are not allowed to make claims of such, within your listing. Rankings can (and do) change. A seller or product that tops the list today, may fall towards the bottom tomorrow.
In other words, stick to the facts. Describe your product in a way that’s informative but not misleading. Some talking points include:
- It’s intended use
- Examples of creative uses
- Dimensions and weight
- The materials used
- Suggested age range for users of your product
- Instructions on cleaning/care
ADDITIONAL CONCERNS FROM OUR SELLERS
There’s one specific concern that we’d like to address. Several sellers have mentioned that super URL’s are no longer allowed to be used, per Amazon’s policy updates. This is simply not true. Nowhere in the entire TOS, does it mention any such thing. This is a rumor that’s spreading, due to lack of understanding.
We encourage all of you to sit down and thoroughly read over the updated policy. As they say, knowledge is power. Arm yourself with information.
RECAP OF CONCERNS & HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
1. You are allowed to provide discounts on your products, in exchange for a review. You may not, however, try to sway the reviewer into posting a positive review. Reviews are to be honest – which means you must take the good and the bad.
2. You may not provide compensation to reviewers. Users are to provide a review, based solely on their own experience with your product.
3. Be leery of any companies that do email blasts. There’s no control over the distribution. You’ll likely end up with a big spike (and then a big plummet) in sales, which sends a red flag to Amazon. Remember, consistency is key.
4. Make sure that you’re not giving discount codes to the same users, for the same product.
5. Stick to the facts. Don’t use potentially misleading terms to describe your products. Be informative, but honest. Using terms like “best” or “#1” is against the rules as these are subjective.
We are not attorneys and are in no way, providing legal advice. We’re merely providing an explanation of Amazon’s changes, as we understand them to be. It’s recommended that you do your due diligence, to ensure that you’re making decisions that are in the best interest of your business.