Amazon rules and policies are ever evolving and it is important to be aware of such changes in order to avoid falling foul of new rules and suffering account suspensions, costing you time and money to resolve it.
Many sellers may not be aware that Amazon changed their barcode policy in early 2016, but it had far reaching implications for anyone selling with them and potentially set a precedent for how Amazon intend to implement barcodes within their system going forward.
The new policy states:
We verify the authenticity of product UPCs by checking the GS1 database. UPCs that do not match the information provided by GS1 will be considered invalid. We recommend obtaining your UPCs directly from GS1 (and not from other third parties selling UPC licenses) to ensure the appropriate information is reflected in the GS1 database.
This would appear to be Amazon in the process of clamping down on duplicate listings by making it against the rules to add your own barcode to an existing product.
A barcode is essentially something called a GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) which is a series of numbers combined with a pattern of parallel lines which can be read using a barcode scanning device.
There are two main types of GTIN you might come across such as UPC (Unique Product Code) predominantly used in the US and EAN (European Article Number) which is the most commonly used in the UK.
Although there are many resellers of GTINs, the only official source is GS1 (Global Standards 1) because they are responsible for setting the company prefix at the start of the GTIN. This prefix is unique to the manufacturer of that particular product, so a GTIN from anywhere other than GS1 is going to have the incorrect prefix.
While reselling barcodes is not illegal, this latest policy from Amazon makes it a grey area at best and represents a potential headache for sellers.
Barcodes For Branded Products
It is important to use the correct barcode when selling a product that is not your brand. Failure to do so can result in account suspension or even an out-right ban. The brand owners could even take legal action against you. Using the correct barcodes can save you a lot of time and money in lost revenues in such cases.
If you are having trouble finding the barcode for a particular product, you will have to contact the manufacturer directly as there is no official list for barcodes available to the public.
Amazon can grant exemptions if barcodes do not exist for a product, but you will require a letter from the manufacturer or brand owner to confirm this, which might not always be easy to come by.
Barcodes For Your Products
In order to stay on the right side of Amazon’s policies and ensure you don’t end up with a suspended account, it is best to buy your GTINs from GS1 as they are the only ones who can assign your company prefix to it.
If you ever decide to sell your products to other retailers you will likely find they will not accept them without GTINs from GS1, so going down this road can save you trouble in the future.
Some sellers can apply for Amazon’s brand registry program if they do not want to use a GTIN from GS1. Amazon will then give your products a unique code called a GCID (Global Catalog Identifier) meaning you no longer require a UPC or EAN.
Barcodes For Bundles
The same rules apply for bundles of products as they do individually. So a bundle of your own products would require a GTIN from GS1 in the same manner as a single item.
Making custom bundles of other peoples products could be problematic as you would need a GTIN from the original manufacturer. The best option is to list only bundles created by the manufacturers themselves, thus giving you access to the correct GTIN.
While it is possible to bundle other manufacturers products under one of your own personal barcodes under the current Amazon rules, this does seem like a loophole that could potentially be closed by Amazon at any point and leave you vulnerable to punitive action. It would seem best practice to avoid this method where possible.
Fixing Old Listings
If you have current listings with incorrect barcodes, now is the time to fix them before you end up on the wrong side of a suspension.
You will need to shut down your incorrect listing and re-list with the correct barcode information. While Amazon are focusing more on resellers currently exploiting the barcode system, they will surely begin to focus on private sellers eventually as well.
Getting ahead of the policies and cleaning up old listings will save the kind of time and money that most cannot afford to lose as Amazon seem intent on refreshing their system to make it more customer friendly and less confusing.