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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 3824 - April 20, 2016 - ISSN 1539-5065    2 of 4

Avoiding UPC Headaches amid Amazon Crackdown

By Ina Steiner
April 20, 2016

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Most products that sellers list on sites like eBay, Amazon, and Google Shopping come with a UPC code from the manufacturer already, but there are instances when online sellers need their own UPC codes.

Many sellers are tempted to purchase them from resellers - you can find them very inexpensively on eBay.

But before you do, understand that it may be less risky in the long run to buy your own codes directly from GS1 US, which is part of a global information standards organization - and you need to be careful how you use UPC codes. As we reported on Tuesday on the EcommerceBytes Blog, Amazon is expanding its crackdown on UPC codes on its marketplace.

Bernie Hogan, Senior Vice President, Emerging Capabilities and Industries at GS1 US, noted that both eBay and Amazon strongly encourage sellers to include their products' Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), which is also known as a UPC, in their online product listings, if they already have them. "This is great for the industry, and for consumers, as it is a way to more efficiently connect the flow of products from the digital to the physical world."

On sites like Amazon, a seller may incorrectly list an item under the UPC for your product, or they may list the same product as yours, but use an incorrect UPC. In 2013, we provided some background about Amazon's policies around UPCs and its efforts to clean up its catalog - and now, we're hearing Amazon is expanding its crackdown on duplicate listings.

And as more and more sellers embrace private label selling on Amazon (see this article from last year), the issue of UPC codes is of increasing importance.

But some believe acquiring UPC codes from GS1 US is out of reach for many small businesses and small, start-up brands.

Hogan said that perception is incorrect, and he said the majority of its membership is actually composed of small to mid-sized companies. "GS1 US licenses Company Prefixes (the first few numbers of a GTIN or UPC) based on capacity to suit the needs of various company sizes. Once a company has licensed a Prefix, they are able to create their own UPCs as needed."

He provided pricing information that shows a merchant/brand can pay $250 for up to 10 items requiring a UPC code, with an annual renewal fee of $50.

Amazon already suppresses ASINs that are missing UPCs or have invalid UPCs - meaning those listings won't show up in search and browse pages.

One seller noted this week, "I believe the assigning your own UPC to a Branded Product that already has one is coming to an end."

The crackdown may be scary for many sellers, but some sellers will welcome tighter enforcement given the many ways sellers can abuse UPC codes and muddy the catalog. Let us know what you think.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

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About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

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