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Amazon Claims to Protect Brands - But Do They?

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your competitor’s claims

4/17/2023 | Jeff Jacobs, The Brand Protector

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your competitor’s claims. It’s really easy to mine annual reports, press releases, new hire information, and similar announcements for nuggets to compare how your product and services compare. Unfavorable? Time to make adjustments. Favorable? Those are items you might want to highlight in your next client conversation. To be clear, I’m not suggesting you throw your competitor under the bus by name, just mention your areas of strength and let your client make the comparisons on their own.

I like to use Google alerts for this work. Don’t know how to set up an alert? It’s very easy and quick to do!

How to Create an Alert

  1. Go to Google Alerts.
  2. In the box at the top, enter a topic or company you want to follow.
  3. To choose your settings, click the Show options drop down menu. You can change:
    • Frequency of notifications.
    • Types of sites you’ll see.
    • Your language.
    • Area of world you want info from.
    • How many results.
    • What accounts get the alert.
  4. Click Create Alert. You’ll get emails with search results.

Two weeks ago I received several alerts triggered by the announcement of the third annual Amazon Brand Protection Report. Like it or not, your clients are buying from Amazon for home or office, or more likely, both. Copyright infringement and counterfeit products have been an issue for nearly the twenty-eight years Amazon has been in business, and the self-claimed “Earth’s most customer-centric company” has used this annual report the last three years to try and address the loss of trust caused by these two big issues.

Amazon claims significant improvements in several areas over the last year to protect brands associated with their websites. A few examples:

  • The number of “valid notices of infringement” filed by brands in Brand Registry decreased by over 35 percent.
  • The number of “bad actor” attempts to create new Amazon selling accounts decreased in 3 years. From 6 million attempts in 2020, to 2.5 million attempts in 2021, to 800,000 in 2022.
  • Amazon sued or referred for investigation over 1,300 criminals in the US, UK, EU, and China (and sometimes donated settlement amounts to community education programs).
  • Amazon put some of the blame on law enforcement, saying “The reality, however, is that for too long, prosecution of counterfeiters has not received the level of resourcing and attention that is needed to stop counterfeiters.”
  • Amazon seized and disposed of 6 million counterfeit items.

First, let’s talk about shutting down more “bad actors” opening accounts. Some of this is simply a numbers rationalization as ecommerce was booming in 2020 during the height of COVID, and the number of people trying to open accounts was significantly higher. But, to Amazon’s credit, it has changed the process dramatically to requiring video verification of both the person and identity documents with an Amazon employee when opening a new seller account. There seems to be much discussion among sellers about the specifics of the bad actors that have been stopped. Amazon claims most were counterfeiters, but many believe the vast majority of people trying to open illicit selling accounts are either dodging a previous suspension from Amazon, or trying to perform black hat tactics, not counterfeiters.

Amazon also claims to have reduced the number of “valid” infringement notices in the Amazon Brand Registry by more than 35 per cent. Most of the time, sellers suggest, when an infringement notice is opened in Brand Registry, it is not to report a counterfeit product but to report a copyright claim, often regarding photography. Reducing the number of copyright-infringing images is not quite as cool to point out to consumers as reducing counterfeit products is. Not a bad thing from the report, but clarification as to stopping counterfeits versus stolen photographs seems to be in order.

It seems a bit odd that Amazon, in a report about what it is doing to protect brands, passes some of the blame on to law enforcement. In the report Amazon states, “The reality is that for too long prosecution of counterfeiters has not received the level of resourcing and attention that is needed to stop counterfeiters.” Amazon is throwing shade on law enforcement and the legal system in a report that is supposed to be about what Amazon is doing. I think it’s bad form- there’s little question that law enforcement lacks sufficient funding to take a stronger stand against counterfeiters.

In the report Dharmesh Mehta, vice president of Amazon’s Worldwide Selling Partner Services, says, “We are proud of the progress we made this past year, and we will continue to innovate until we drive the number of counterfeits in our store to zero. We also appreciate the growing industry-wide partnership and collaboration in the fight against counterfeits. While the industry still has a long way to go in driving the right public and private sector partnership, we are excited about our progress and what we can do together to hold bad actors accountable and ensure the entire industry is rid of counterfeits.”

What do you think? Amazon, as your competitor, is talking about industry-wide cooperation. Do you feel that they have done enough to prevent counterfeit sellers from driving down price perceptions, effectively damaging your margins? I’d like to hear your thoughts on the issue.

Jeff Jacobs has been an expert in building brands and brand stewardship for 40 years, working in commercial television, Hollywood film and home video, publishing, and promotional brand merchandise. He’s a staunch advocate of consumer product safety and has a deep passion and belief regarding the issues surrounding compliance and corporate social responsibility. He retired as executive director of Quality Certification Alliance, the only non-profit dedicated to helping suppliers provide safe and compliant promotional products. Before that, he was director of brand merchandise for Michelin. Connect with Jeff on TwitterLinkedInInstagram, or read his latest musings on food, travel and social media on his personal blog jeffreypjacobs.com. Email jacobs.jeffreyp@gmail.com.
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