Protect Your Amazon Product Listings

In another article, we discussed common tactics unscrupulous Amazon sellers used to hurt your business, but in this article we're going to be discussing one of the most common attacks, hijacking.

So what is "hijacking"?

Hijacking refers to when another seller starts selling counterfeit or similar version of your private label product. This can cause a number of issues for the legitimate buyer including damaging your brand reputation and stealing the buy box spot.

Here's an example:

In this listing, Diamond Kinetics sells this item. However, as you can see there are 5 other sellers for this product.

Upon further inspection we see there is one seller who is selling this product for $5 less.

Now, it's important to note that this doesn't mean this seller is a hijacker, only Diamond Kinetics would know this for sure, because only the seller knows who has the rights to sell their products. However, if you notice more sellers have been listed to your listing, then you need to check who they are and determine if they're legitimate.

How to Protect Listings From Hijackers

Although there is no magic bullet, there are a few things you to do when dealing with hijackers and we'll list them all out here.

Brand Your Products

This should seem obvious, but put a brand on your products. The more distinguished the brand and logo, the more difficult it is for counterfeiters. Also, make sure to have Universal Product Codes (UPC), for your products. UPCs help you spot supply chain leaks and counterfeiters better. If the product doesn't have a matching UPC, then you know somethings wrong.  

Register Your Brand on Amazon

If you're going through all the trouble to create a brand, then it only makes sense to put in the extra effort to register that brand on Amazon. As long as your company represents its own brands or manufacturers its own products, then you're eligible for enrollment in Amazon's Brand Registry.

Registering your brand gives you additional protection, although not 100%, against unauthorized sellers and prevents others from editing the listing - huge plus. If you're going to register your brand you're going to need to provide the following:

  • Image of your product packaging with your brand name visible on the packaging
  • Image of product with your branding visible on the product itself
  • A website that displays your brand and products

Amazon's Brand Registry application can be found here.

Keep Everything Documented

On top of the obvious things you need to keep documented, business license, trademark information, patents, invoices, etc. here's a list of the not so obvious things to document that will come in handy if you ever run into a hijacker.

  • Screenshots of your Amazon listing
  • Browse node - the numerical ID Amazon uses to organize its items for sale

Browse node? You can find yours here.

Build Your Brand Website

If you're going to register your brand on Amazon Brand Registry, you'll need to do this anyways. Either way, you should have a website for your brand to establish authority.

Trademark Your Brand

This isn't necessary, but Amazon does recommend you trademark your brand, which will make it easier to register your brand on Amazon also. Here are the quick steps to getting your brand trademarked:

  1. Search Knowem (knowem.com) to see whether your brand domain name is available.
  2. If the name and domain seem to be available, check the US Trademark and Patent Office search toolto ensure the name is available, and that there isn’t a trademark that’s too similar.
  3. Search your brand name on Amazon and ensure no one is already using it there (possible if they haven’t registered a business).
  4. Register your brand.

Stand Out From the Competition

A product that is difficult to copy is less likely to be hijacked. For instance, a hot selling googly eyed tennis ball is far more likely to be hijacked than selling a velvet potato-head tennis ball with visible branding. What? Ya, well you get the idea.

Monitor Your Product Listings

The only way to find out if your product has been hijacked is to keep an eye on them. Now you can do this yourself, or you can use software like Seller Suite's Amazon Product Monitoring tool, which will notify you whenever there is a potential listing hijack.

Once Seller's Suite notifies you of a hijack, we provide you with an automatic cease and desist letter that you can send to the hijacker warning them before further action is taken. Here's an example of a cease and desist letter you might send:


Dear [OFFENDING SELLER],

It has come to our attention that your Company is using the [YOUR BRAND]® and/or the [YOUR COMPANY]® name and trademark to sell products on the Amazon[.COM, .DE, .CO.UK, .CA, .MX, ETC…] marketplace, in violation of multiple international and national criminal laws, as well as civil laws regarding trademark infringement and unfair competition.

Our company, [YOUR COMPANY]® is the exclusive distributor and the owner of the brand. We have never granted permission to your company to sell our brand nor have we sold you inventory for resale.
This will serve as your legal notice to cease and desist all further actions described above, including any mention of our products/company on your listings on any marketplace, websites or marketing efforts.
You are hereby instructed to comply with this letter immediately or face legal sanctions under applicable International, Federal and/or State law.

I have also reported your trademark and copyright violation to Amazon Seller Performance. You have 24 hours to comply or we will take further legal action against you.

Sincerely,
[YOUR NAME][Owner, {President}, {Founder}, {CEO}, {ETC…}]
[YOUR COMPANY NAME]®
[YOUR CITY, {STATE}, COUNTRY]

What To Do if You Have Already Been Hijacked

Once you've been hijacked, it's an uphill battle and while you're not likely to win every battle, there are steps you can take to fight the hijacker.

Lower Your Price

If you've lost the buy box or even if you haven't lost it, lowering your price might be a good strategy until you have dealt with the hijacker.

Cease and Desist Letter

As soon as you identify a hijacker, you should have already sent the cease and desist letter (see above). To send the letter to the seller, just go to their seller feedback page and "Ask a question" as seen below:

Buy Their Product

If you purchase their product, you can then identify with certainty whether its a counterfeit. If it is, document everything and then return it - because forget them. With this documentation, it'll be a lot easier and faster for Amazon to determine whether the hijacker is fraud.

Contact Amazon

If the cease and desist letter doesn't work, which it usually does, then you can contact Amazon. Make sure you have all of your documentation ready and it's in order.

Assuming you’ve made your test-purchase, here’s what you do:

  • Wait for the item has been shipped and received.
  • Have your friend complain to the seller that the item is fake through Amazon where you “Report a Problem”. Choose the option about the product “not being materially the same”.
  • Wait a day and then file an A to Z request against the counterfeit seller.
  • Make sure you the use the terms “fake”, “not authentic” or “counterfeit” in your claim.
  • If all goes well, Amazon will take down their listing within a few days.

Be mindful to provide as much information as you can here. This includes:

  • How the hijacker’s product is different from what you sell (in terms of color, weight, dimensions, etc.)
  • Any complaints you’ve received from customers relating to a counterfeit product
  • Any communications with the hijacker
  • Evidence of your trademark or brand registration
  • Photographic evidence of the counterfeit product, with an emphasis on how it might let down potential customers

Amazon is all about top-notch customer service.  If you can demonstrate that the counterfeit product is likely to disappoint any buyer, you’ve made your case.

Conclusion

Preventative measures are the best way to deal with hijackers in the first place, so make sure you're keeping an eye on your product listings.