Amazon Project Zero: Amazon’s New Counterfeit Elimination Program

Amazon regularly updates their procedures in response to issues that persist on the platform. The influx of fake Chinese products has given rise to a substantial number of “counterfeit” suspensions. As most sellers already know, authenticity-based suspensions are rampant on Amazon. If you’re a seller, it’s very likely that you’ve had to deal with a “counterfeit”, “infringement”, or “inauthentic” issue at some point within the past couple of years.

In order to try to eliminate counterfeit items on the marketplace, Amazon is starting to roll out a new system called “Amazon Project Zero”. As of right now, Amazon Project Zero is an invite-only service. Therefore, most brand owners are still operating on the standard counterfeit removal system. This article will explain how Amazon Project Zero works, and what it means for Amazon third party sellers.

How does Amazon Project Zero differ from the standard counterfeit removal system?
Unless a brand owner has been accepted to Amazon Project Zero, the brand owner still needs to submit a complaint form directly to Amazon and wait for an agent to analyze each complaint. Based on the analysis, Amazon either decides to take action against the seller, or they ignore the complaint due to lack of evidence.  

Amazon Project Zero differs from the standard counterfeit removal system due to the following changes:

  • Instead of receiving communications directly from brand owners, Amazon will use their “machine learning” service to predict and automatically delete suspected counterfeit items.
  • Instead of having to wait for Amazon’s decision regarding each complaint, Amazon will give brand owners the authority to delete suspected counterfeit items of their brand, without Amazon’s direct involvement.
  • Amazon will now provide brand owners with a unique code for their products, so they are able to easily identify fakes.

These tools will give brand owners much more control over removing counterfeit items and make third party sellers more vulnerable to counterfeit issues.  

How will Amazon Project Zero accomplish these new changes?
Amazon Project Zero is introducing a system which aims to fully eradicate counterfeit items on the marketplace. This system consists of three parts:

  • AUTOMATED PROJECTIONS: Amazon will scan over 5 billion items daily in order to identify counterfeit items for removal. These projections will be based on information that has been provided by brand owners regarding patents, trademarks, logo, slogans, and additional relevant brand information. Suspected items will be automatically deleted from the marketplace through this new automated system.
  • SELF-SERVICE COUNTERFEIT REMOVAL: Brand owners will have the ability to delete suspected counterfeit items with the new “self-service” tool. Amazon agents will no longer be directly involved in this process. This will give brand owners the ability to delete items at will, and they won’t have to go through any processes to get their items deleted.
  • PRODUCT SERIALIZATION: Brands will enroll individual items into the program. Once each product is enrolled, they will be able to apply a unique code on every item that they manufacture. This will help Amazon confirm the authenticity of the brand owners’ items and ultimately eliminate counterfeit products for that brand. However, product serialization is not mandatory, and brand owners will have the option to decide which items they want to serialize at their own discretion.

It’ll be more important than ever to carefully monitor all your inventory to make sure that your items were obtained from authorized sources. Also, after brands start applying product serialization, Amazon will force FBA sellers to remove products from that brand which were not serialized prior to being sent to FBA facilities.

How will Amazon Project Zero affect Amazon third party sellers?
We foresee an initial jump in “infringement counterfeit”, “trademark infringement”, and “inauthentic” product suspensions. Due to the implementation of the automated system, it’s likely that Amazon will start using “bots” to suspend sellers and send warnings regarding counterfeit complaints. In the meantime, since the current form is still in place, most brand owners will continue to fill out the forms while the program is being established.

As with most other programs, we anticipate some of the brand owners trying to abuse the system for their own benefit. Some brand owners may try to take advantage of the system by forcing out unwanted sellers that they see as competition. In this case, brand owners would intentionally delete items even if they aren’t counterfeit. As a measure to monitor brands, Amazon states that “brands must maintain a high bar for accuracy in order to maintain their Project Zero privileges and have a number of processes in place to promote accuracy, including required training as part of Project Zero enrollment, and ongoing monitoring to prevent misuse of their tools.” Hopefully, these measures will effectively safeguard sellers, and the brand owner will get their Amazon Project Zero privileges revoked if they violate the system.

In the meantime, the system is still “invite-only”. This gives you some time to breathe and prepare for the addition of brands to the program. Initially, Amazon will only be adding well-known brands to Amazon Project Zero. Therefore, we advise you to review your Amazon inventory, and obtain authorization for as many well-known brands as possible. If you’re unable to obtain authorization, we recommend removing that brand from your Amazon inventory to prevent suspension.

What can sellers do to prevent counterfeit violations?
Amazon Project Zero bots will most likely scan product titles, descriptions, and images against the trademarked and copyrighted keywords that have been provided by the brand owners participating in the program. Once a bot identifies a problem catalog page, the sellers who list items on that page will be in danger of receiving a warning, or getting their account suspended.

In order to prevent potential issues, you should avoid editing Amazon catalog pages, images, or descriptions. Also, make sure to review the current content on the Product Detail page and lookout for suspicious keywords before adding new items to your Amazon inventory.

As always, we strongly advise against retail arbitrage and online arbitrage as a method of obtaining inventory. Retail arbitrage involves purchasing items from retail stores and reselling the merchandise on online marketplaces and online arbitrage involves purchasing items from websites and reselling the merchandise on online marketplaces. Instead of using these methods, source your inventory directly from an authorized supplier to ensure that your products are authentic.

Sellercare has an extensive authorized supplier list, and we assist sellers in negotiations to secure authorization to list authorized brands on Amazon. Solely selling authorized products is the best way to prevent authenticity-based suspensions. If you have any questions related to Amazon Project Zero, authorized distributor sources, or any other performance or suspension related matters, contact Sellercare.

Pro Tip: It is the best to consult a professional such as Sellercare immediately once your Amazon account is suspended. In most cases, significant changes need to be made to seller account logistics, inventory, and sourcing before the appeal is prepared.

Author:
Evelin Goldin is the COO at Sellercare LLC. Sellercare LLC provides consulting and reinstatement services to Amazon sellers, and manages hundreds of sellers on a regular basis, including some of the top Amazon sellers worldwide. Sellercare LLC has assisted thousands of sellers with account reinstatement. She has over 18 years of experience dealing with Amazon. She worked for a company which was one of the first third party sellers on Amazon. She is an expert on Amazon practices, guidelines, policies, and suspensions. She works with sellers on a daily basis to assist with Amazon account notations, suspensions, and business practice optimization. Check out her company (www.sellercare.com).