There’s a pestilential pirate in town and it’s here to muscle-in on your FBA business.
Listing hijackers are lurking out there in various forms, some of which you can do something about, some you can’t. All are annoying. “Hijacking” occurs when you spend all the time and effort to create a new listing, only to find you lose the buy box for that listing because someone else has come in and undercut you on price.
Sometimes it’s completely legit (though no less annoying) which we’ll explain, but sometimes you have a strong case to chase that pirate off your turf. Here’s how to deal with any hijackers on Amazon:
You’re Stuck with These Ones…
So you’ve ordered some relatively generic kitchen products from AliBaba and done up a listing. You decided to forego any branding for now while you see how these products go. Next minute, you find someone else is winning the buy box for the listing you’ve created. They bought the exact same generic product from AliBaba and have listed theirs at a lower price.
Before you cry large, salty tears and send furious messages to the other seller or to Amazon, stop. This seller isn’t doing anything wrong. If they bought the exact same generic product then they can use your listing for it, no matter how much sweat you put into crafting it.
In fact, Amazon encourages them to do so for the sake of keeping the site “clean” for shoppers and avoiding hundreds of unique listings for the exact same products.
The same can be said if you have created a uniquely branded product, run a sale, then notice someone reselling your products at a cheaper price. This is retail arbitrage rather than true hijacking and they’re allowed to do it if they like.
These Ones You Can Do Something About
These are the bandits — the brazen burglars who hijack your listing via completely nefarious means and whom you can do something about:
- Hijackers who have stolen your private label item and logo in a straight-up trademark rip-off.
- The hijacker uses your listing to sell something similar, but different from what you are selling.
Protect Your Brand Early
Private label sellers can help themselves out by doing things right with their branding from early on. Like any other business who wishes to protect their own trademarks and products, you can take steps to do the same.
Here’s what we would do:
Step #1. Create a Brand
Come up with your own unique brand name which makes sense for the types of products you want to sell. Consider any product variations or added lines you might go into later — you don’t want to be stuck with a name that doesn’t work for all products.
Take these steps:
- Search GoDaddy to see whether your brand domain name is available.
- Search Google to see if the brand pops up as a business.
- If the name and domain seem to be available, check the US Trademark and Patent Office search tool to ensure the name isn’t trademarked and there isn’t a trademark that is too similar.
- Search your brand name on Amazon and ensure no one is already using it there (totally possible if they haven’t registered a business).
- Register your brand.
Step #2 – Build a Brand Website
Nothing says “this is mine” quite like your own piece of online turf. It also says “back off, hijacker” and “lawyer up.” If you develop your own platform, you’ve got a great way to spread your risk so that you’re not entirely reliant on Amazon and to communicate directly with customers as you build a list.
You can still have your orders fulfilled by Amazon by connecting to FBA, but you also have a perfect piece of evidence (which you might need later) to prove that you own a brand and that someone is hijacking your listing.
Step #3 – Brand the Products
Rather than leaving generic packaging or logoless products, take advantage of services to brand your logo on both. If you have clear branding (or modifications) to a product, it can act as a deterrent to hijackers. You also have further evidence to prove that a product listing has in fact been hijacked.
Another trick some sellers use is to have something printed on the inside of the packaging of their products. A copycat won’t know about that (unless they ordered your product) and it’s an easy way for you to prove to Amazon that the product they are selling is a fraud.
Step #4 – Register with Amazon
(Note — you might do this in conjunction with step #2; don’t wait!). Registering your brand through your Seller Central account is fairly straightforward. You simply need to fill out their form and already have a website you can provide them as part of registration.
It’s important to note that registering your brand doesn’t stop other sellers from selling your branded products, but it may be enough to put them off. The other advantage is that no other seller will easily be able to alter details of your product listing (a problem which has caused complaints for sellers when buyers don’t get what they expected) and that you have another piece of evidence in your arsenal if you’re setting out to prove that someone is selling counterfeit products under your listing.
There is another advantage to your overall productivity in registering your brand with Amazon and that is you will have a more efficient experience listing new products. Registering means that the brand information will be displayed automatically and you don’t need to re-enter information.
Sending a Cease and Desist
Alright, most people find these pretty scary and will probably back off even with the threat of receiving a cease and desist letter. For this reason, start by contacting the seller using the “ask a question” button in their seller profile.
You could say something as simple as this:
Hi [Seller Name],
It has come to my attention that you are selling [product name] under our listing, which is a product we have created and hold trademark for. We have not sold wholesale or given permission to any other reseller.
As I own the brand and have not authorized its use to anyone else, it appears that you are selling a different product that is posturing as [product name]. Amazon takes counterfeit activity very seriously and will remove your listing, often without warning.
Please remove your product from the [product name] listing within the next 24 hours, otherwise I will need to report this to Amazon and issue a formal cease and desist letter. We would prefer not to have to do this for either of our sakes, so please heed this message.
[Name – Company]
If this fails? Send that cease and desist letter. Sometimes people were simply too lazy to create their own product listing so jumped on yours, other times it is a cynical attempt to harness a brand you’ve already created.
Should the other seller ignore your communications, you’re now heading into territory where you need to be filing a complaint with Amazon and trying to get them removed.
Filing a Complaint with Amazon
If you’ve had no response from sternly-worded messages or cease and desist letters, then (unfortunately), you need to compile evidence to put together a case for Amazon.
This might involve:
- Documenting any complaints you’ve received from customers that are in fact related to the counterfeit product.
- Putting together any communications with the other seller.
- Purchasing their product and carefully documenting every way in which it is different from what you sell. (Amazon wants to know how it is deceiving customers — their number one concern is always good customer service).
- Evidence of your own brand registration or trademark.
- Photos and any other conclusive evidence to show that a customer who purchases the counterfeit product will not be happy.
Once you’ve compiled your evidence, file an infringement report with Amazon. This can take some back and forth to reach a conclusion, but in the end Amazon is looking out for its own reputation and customer satisfaction too.
Amazon can be a, well, jungle with pirates and opportunists always on the lookout for a quick buck. They do try to run a tight ship though (especially as compared to say, eBay) and will act in the best interest of the customer experience where possible.
You can begin to protect yourself from hijacking by building a solid brand which will be difficult for pretenders to nab. Brand your products and packaging, build a website and register your business. It’s about building yourself a solid foundation of “ownership.”
Should you still experience a burglar on your listing who is either selling counterfeit products or selling something obviously different under the same listing, get hold of the seller first and ask them to cease. If this doesn’t work, compile evidence of how they are hijacking you and why their product is different and file a complaint with Amazon. Monitor your listing carefully and protect your position!