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Amazon Health and Beauty Turns Ugly for Sellers

Amazon’s Health & Beauty category has turned ugly for third-party sellers, and some say it’s risky to sell in the category. In October, we wrote about the challenges sellers faced in selling cosmetics and certain beauty products, with Amazon banning sellers from listing many name brands. This month, some sellers say Amazon is again cracking down in Health & Beauty.

In one discussion thread, a seller said Amazon had recently been removing many, many products in the health section for being “prescription,” including Visine, Nyquil, Afrin, generic Benadryl and Gyne-Lotrimin.

“Amazon of course has the right to sell or not sell any product,” the seller wrote, “however the continuing problem is Amazon blaming the sellers for selling “prescription” products which are obviously not prescription. So what I have to wonder is – should I (and everyone else) stop selling the entire category?”

Another seller responded, advising caution in investing in Health & Beauty on Amazon even for sellers with permission, because “Amazon will restrict brands/listings at any given point and arbitrarily even if these products do not contain restricted ingredients. It started last year and no it’s not going to end.”

The merchant also advised sellers to avoid FBA, “because once your products are trapped you will pay more to just get these out. It is not just a cautionary tale; we’ve been through this.”

Sure enough, another seller chimed in that they were just suspended for selling nutritional supplements and had over $100,000 in inventory stranded in Amazon FBA warehouses.

Sellers had various theories for why Amazon was cracking down on sellers. One referenced an article in Slate Magazine from May 29, 2014. The piece, titled, “Amazon’s Illegal Drug Dealing – Steroids, muscle relaxants, and prescription antibiotics delivered right to your door” was written by Dr. Vox, who is getting media attention including interviews on public radio and CNN.

However, the items Amazon are targeting don’t necessarily fall into the categories of steroids or prescriptions – rather they are over-the counter-items one can find at local stores.

A large Amazon merchant told EcommerceBytes that Amazon’s help pages about restricted items contained no information about the types of products for which they received policy violations.

One merchant wrote on the boards that it wasn’t just Health & Beauty that sellers should beware. “What category is safe to invest in, then? As far as I know, this is happening in media and toys, groceries and now health/beauty….seems to me Amazon is inadvertently telling us to be careful about investing in ANY category…Where will it end? It won’t. Every week I discover new DVD/Bluray/CD titles suddenly without a catalog page and stranded at FBA warehouses that I have to recall and sell elsewhere.”

Another said Amazon also needed to clean up its Grocery category “before a national media scandal.”

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
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). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.