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Amazon Inauthentic Complaint

One of the most common types of Amazon suspensions is the dreaded “Amazon inauthentic complaint.” Most buyers read the word “inauthentic” and think that this means counterfeit. An Amazon inauthentic complaint has more to do with the supply chain or origin of your product. A counterfeit complaint is an entirely different and more severe type of Amazon suspension.

Always Remember: Inauthentic ≠ Counterfeit

Why Did You Get An Inauthentic Complaint?

Here are the most typical clients that we help facing the Inauthentic Complaint from Amazon.

  1. Client purchased brand name items at a retail store like Walmart. For example, the client might have bought Skullcandy headphones on sale at Walmart. The client has put the headphones up for sale on Amazon. Skullcandy first sends a cease and desist letter to the Seller. Afterwards, Skullcandy complains to Amazon and the client is hit with inauthentic complaint.
  2. Client has purchased a brand name item from a wholesaler in China. For example, a client has purchased Sharpie markers and Paper Mate pens from a wholesaler in China. However, the wholesaler in China is not a licensed distributor of these branded products. These office supply brands complain to Amazon and the Seller account is suspended.
  3. Client has purchased inventory from a licensed distributor yet still receives a customer complaint. For example, the client might have purchased Anker power cables from a licensed distributor. However, an Amazon customer complains that the power cable received did not appear like the picture or was different than what was described in the listing. Amazon suspends the Seller account for and inauthentic complaint and asks the Seller for more information.

As you can see, only scenario #2 includes an actual legitimate threat that the products are inauthentic. Even then, it is possible that an unlicensed distributor in China is selling authentic goods.

Amazon Wants To Check Your Supply Chain

To repeat, the Amazon inauthentic complaint is more about checking the origin of your products. Amazon wants to ensure the integrity of the supply chain. From a practical perspective, a supply chain will usually include a manufacturer and licensed distributors. Amazon wants to know where you got your products from and the way to know this information is via your purchase invoices.

What constitutes a proper invoice?

Firstly, Amazon wants to your supplier’s name, email, phone number, address and website address. Commonly, I see Alibaba listed as the web address. A legitimate supplier will have their own website.

A proper invoice will list quantity, item description, the SKU, sizes, invoice number, shipment terms etc. Amazon states that you can redact pricing information. Many sellers are suspicious of sharing supplier information with Amazon. I generally do not advise clients to redact information as I think it can arouse suspicion.

To investigate the supply chain, the invoice date must be issued within the last 365 days. Usually, Amazon is only interested in invoices issued within the last 180 days. Clearly, this can be a problem if you have aged inventory at Amazon.

Your invoice must include specific information. The direct phone number and email of your contact person. You want to tell your contact that Amazon is in the process of verifying your business relationship. The supplier should be prepared for a call from Seller Performance.

You will also want to show Amazon the shipping info. In addition, you want to provide documentation about where and when you received the products. If you received your products from China to a shared warehouse, you need to make sure that your name or company name is on the invoice from the shared warehouse.

A pro forma invoice or an invoice where payment is still outstanding will not pass the documentation requirements at Amazon.

Invoice Verification for Inauthentic Complaints

Once you have submitted invoices that include all relevant information, Amazon will then verify your suppliers. First, they will check the manufacturer website. For example, if you are selling Vitamix commercial blenders, Amazon would look at the list of authorized distributors and see if it matches your invoices.

Many foreign suppliers in Asia have bare bones websites and unresponsive sales reps. I had a client who was importing from Thailand and the manufacturer would take 5 days to respond to emails. You have to brief your supplier that you under Amazon investigation and the supplier must be prepared to respond promptly.

Secondly, Amazon might call your supplier and ask questions about quantity and shipping dates. Amazon is looking for altered or outright fraudulent information. It is important that you provide Amazon with a direct number and not simply the main switchboard.

Invoices Must Be Recent

An invoice will not be accepted if it is over 365 days old. For example, imagine you have an online store selling an old model of phone chargers. The product is not selling well and has been sitting in your inventory for a year and a half. If you receive an inauthentic complaint you will not be able to furnish invoices within the last 365 days. The product has been in your inventory for 547 days which means your invoices are outdated.

I also want to highlight that your invoices must match the infraction date. For example, imagine your Seller account was suspended in December 2020. However, most of the inauthentic complaints took place in October 2020. When you supply your invoices to Amazon you want to make sure that you include the products from October 2020. An invoice from November 2020 would not serve any purpose.

What is an Authorized Distributor?

We have already established that you need an invoice from the manufacturer or an authorized distributor. However, I commonly see that my clients do not properly screen from authorized distributors. They assume if the wholesale price was fair, the products must be authentic.

An Authorized distributor has the right to sell the branded product at the wholesale level in a defined region and a defined sales channel. An Authorized distributor signs a contractual agreement with the manufacturer. It is important to note that some authorized distributors cannot sell to Amazon sellers. Their agreement might stipulate that they can only sell to brick and mortar retail stores.

In order to avoid Amazon inauthentic complaints, you need to purchase your inventory from Authorized distributors of a particular brand. You would ask the manufacturer for a list of authorized distributors. It should be noted that many brands such as Birkenstock do not want to see their products on the Amazon platform. If you are dealing with an authorized distributor you must ensure that they have the right to sell to an online reseller. Ideally, this would be in the letter of authenticity (see below). Similarly, if you are dealing with the manufacturer, you have to be upfront that you intend to resell online. There are online services that supply a list of authorized distributors of products that are are not gated by Amazon. However, I cannot vouch for any of these services.

Letter of Authenticity For Inauthentic Complaints

As part of your due diligence, you should request a letter from a manufacturer that certifies the distributor. Your distributor should be able to provide you with this type of letter that you can then verify with the manufacturer. An example is found below from the manufacturer Philips.

Where Do You Source Your Philips Items? : STORM Helpdesk

Dropshipping and Retail Arbitrage

In the 2014-2017 era, many Amazon sellers cut their teeth with dropshipping and retail arbitrage. Unfortunately, many sellers are using outdated information and think that these business models are still viable. However, both business models open you up to Amazon Inauthentic Complaints. With dropshipping you would not have the required invoice until there is an actual order.

Retail arbitrage means that you only have retail receipts. Retail receipts do not meet the invoice requirements for Amazon. Many sellers think that there is no risk of inauthentic products purchased from a retail store such Walmart or Costco. This may be true from a practical perspective. However, Amazon cannot verify the supply chain with a retail receipt from a big box store.

For example, maybe Walmart was duped into carrying fake haircare products. I know of a case where salon beauty products were re-filled with a different hair care product and returned to Walmart. If an Amazon reseller bought these products, they would clearly be inauthentic. As you can see Amazon cannot be 100% certain that the products sourced at a retail level have not been tampered with or are counterfeit.

Dropshipping and retail arbitrage are dying business models. I am quite certain that Amazon is in the process killing off all dropshipping and retail arbitrage businesses. The risk of IP infringement issues from big brands is too great for Amazon.

If you have already been suspended for a dropshipping violation you need to show that you have a viable business going forward. This should include invoices and supplier information of products that you plan to list on Amazon.

Private Label Brands

You would think that a private label brand would not receive any Amazon inauthentic complaints. Wrong! Even private label brands deal with this type of Amazon suspension. It commonly arises when a buyer complains that the product is different from the Amazon listing. The private label seller must furnish documentation including invoices that meet Amazon’s strict criteria.

Plan of Action

I will deal with the Inauthentic plan of action in a separate post.  For now, I only want to emphasize that an Amazon inauthentic complaint requires a plan of action with specific action steps. Most of my clients come to me with generic plan of actions that they have cut and pasted from the Internet. This might have worked a few years ago but it won’t work anymore.

You must be specific when describing your corrective measures. For example, if you removed inventory, you want to supply the removal number. If you contacted unsatisfied customers and offered a refund, why not show a screenshot (as an attachment) of these refunds? If you hired an outside firm to perform an audit of your inventory, show a letter of engagement. If you terminated a relationship with a supplier, you can attach the termination letter. Again, you need to be specific and you need to furnish proof.

If you have already had one plan of action rejected, you should contact us for a consultation

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