What you need to know about FBA Product Compliance

Turns out - you need to know that they're banning products from FBA

This team is responsible for making sure that products that are shipped by Amazon are not costing Amazon money to ship. Basically, most categories don’t have a restocking fee. So when your item gets returned, you lose money, and so does Amazon.

I think we can all understand why Amazon isn’t a fan of this particular situation.

So... not even sure what team this is...?

You may be familiar with them from receiving something that looks like this referencing a negative customer experience:

Hello from Amazon, 

Your listing of [SKU] has been closed as the negative customer experience rate of [XX]% (returns, refunds or contacts) on recent orders is considerably higher than similar listings. Please click on the link below (or copy and paste the link into a browser) for more details. After you have resolved any product or listing issues, you can relist your item immediately without contacting Amazon.

View Details (sign-on required): 
[Custom URL]

Product Information
-Product name: [Title]
-MSKU: [Seller SKU]

Total orders shipped: [XX]
Total defective orders: [XX]
Defect rate: [XX]%

Some recent customer comments include:
[Here Amazon lists out specific content of customer complaints]

The comments provided are directly tied to item(s) sourced by your business, but may not have been sold by you if you participate in the manufacturer barcode (commingling) program.

The closing of your listing does not affect your seller performance rating. The action and this alert is to prevent further negative customer experiences and give you the opportunity to address the issue and relist the item(s) yourself. 

Thank you for selling on Amazon. 

Amazon Services

Ah, got you. So what are my options?

First – what does commingled mean, and how is it even more of a bad deal with this new enforcement program?  Commingled stands for the combining of all seller items into one “pool” from which products are shipped, when you rely on manufacturer’s UPC to have your products tagged. It saves you some change – definitely adds up for those with larger accounts – but it comes with risks.

Second – you need to evaluate what kind of root cause this is. If it’s a mistake, just a random bit of bad luck, then you can probably stand to just relist. If not, then what’s the issue, product quality/conformity related? Or user error? Amazon doesn’t care if it’s user error – you’re still ultimately responsible.

Third – take the URL where you input your actions taken seriously. Don’t say thank you, don’t say we’re working on it – treat this form as seriously as everyone has learned to treat Seller Performance. They can shut off your ASIN. If you’re PL, or you have invested heavily in wholesale ASINs, that’s a big deal and should be treated as such.

Note, if you are a reseller with a very broad catalog, if you simply stop selling the ASIN or sell through, you should be just fine with relisting and moving on for now. We have seen no indications that this will turn into a full account ban of FBA, the way that Seller Performance has in the past completely banned merchant fulfillment if certain metrics aren’t met.

I'm not sure what you mean by product quality/conformity?

Typically there are a few ways to approach product quality and conformity.

The first is product testing. You work with experts and a laboratory to determine the correct testing for your product (unless you’re an engineer or chemist or familiar with compliance, then by all means, go straight to the laboratory). This isn’t just regulatory or safety, although those are important. This is the quality elements – the sturdiness of the fabric, the likelihood of the steel to rust, and so on.

Second, you need some solid inspections checklists. We have found that clients run into the most significant problems when they don’t use the compliance tools available to them, most particularly, inspections.

In addition to solid checklists that really clearly lay out your quality expectations, you should ensure that a signed golden sample is available at the factory for the inspection company to review.

How does this work?

Basically, the factory sends you two exact matching prototypes. You sign one of them if you approve and take a picture, then mail it back to the factory. They keep it in their samples room. Then, when you have a production run, you request an inspection and include the picture of the golden sample with your request, and the inspector asks for that golden sample at the factory, and compares it against your picture, then uses it to evaluate the production run. This is CRITICAL to maintaining consistency of quality across multiple production runs.

You said I'm responsible for customer user error?

Unfortunately yes. Fortunately, there are some standard approaches you can take to address these kinds of errors.

We see most often these kinds of issues with electronic products that require some sort of pairing (like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi), and with products that require precise assembly.

One approach is to revamp the instructions manual. Often, we find that sellers used the factory’s instruction manual, which wasn’t detailed enough, or had insufficient illustrations/pictures. Or, we find that the instructions were just wrong and didn’t work.

In situations where the instructions were clear, but perhaps some people were not as good with technology, providing a help desk line is the most successful approach, as is providing videos on the detail page and on a landing page on your website for this purpose – note, only PL/Brand owners can direct customers to their website through the packaging materials, and even then, only for customer experience reasons or as part of the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act required labeling (website on packaging).

We also highly recommend attaching your instructions as a PDF to your follow up emails to customers and because they’re so important, you can override the customer’s opt-out.

At the end of the day, this is yet another team enforcing yet another set of rules, to ensure that Amazon keeps customers happy while keeping its costs down. We’ll all have some learning to do in the meantime while this becomes a regular occurrence.

Help!! I had no idea my product could be banned from FBA if I didn’t take this seriously!! What do I do with my suspended listing?
About the Author
Rachel Johnson Greer is a global business strategist who specializes in helping entrepreneurs increase their internet product sales, curate their brand image online and avoid catastrophic legal threats. After getting her MBA in international business at Seattle University, she spent nearly a decade at Amazon working in product development. Since then, Rachel has founded companies that reached both multi-six figure and multi-seven figure growth in under three years.

As a business coach, she supports clients in everything from international product expansion to 4x-ing their sales through online retailers. Rachel is frequently sought out by the media and has appeared on the Today Show, CNBC, Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. When she’s not working with clients, she’s scaring friends at parties with stories about the most problematic online products she’s found in their homes. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

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