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Amazon Explains New DVD Restrictions

Amazon is placing tight restrictions on the sale of DVDs by third-party merchants – and by casual sellers – thanks to concerns about the issue of counterfeiting. A spokesperson for the company confirmed the new policy.

The marketplace is requiring any seller who wishes to list DVDS that have a suggested retail price (MSRP) of $25 or greater to get preapproval. The policy could be prove disruptive to sellers who’ve already purchased inventory in advance of the holiday shopping season, especially those who house their merchandise in Amazon warehouses.

Note that the restriction refers to the original price of the DVD, not the price at which the merchant lists the item. The preapproval requirement goes into effect on November 16, 2014.

Amazon is also requiring sellers who wish to sell such DVDs to have a professional selling account. That means consumers who purchase DVDs on Amazon won’t necessarily be able to turn around and resell them there, depending on the MSRP of the title.

Why isn’t Amazon allowing casual sellers to list such items? Amazon spokesperson Erik Fairleigh said, “Customers trust that they can always buy with confidence when they make purchases on Amazon. In order to preserve this trust, we have implemented listing restrictions on certain DVD items that may have a higher risk of authenticity issues.”

According to a letter that went out to sellers who list DVDs, Amazon is implementing the restriction because “these products may have a higher risk of authenticity issues,” and the letter linked to the Amazon Anti-Counterfeiting Policy.

Selling DVDs on Amazon had already become risky for sellers thanks to copyright enforcers – Warner Bros has been particularly aggressive, filing numerous lawsuitsagainst Amazon sellers.

Amazon had already been restricting DVD titles for sale on its marketplace, as we reported two years ago.

Thanks to the new policy, sellers who use Amazon’s FBA fulfillment service must create a removal or disposal order for any DVD products they have not been approved to sell after November 17. Amazon said it would waive fees for any removal or disposal order for these products starting now through January 16, 2015. (Disposal charges for standard-size units is 15 cents, and Return charges are 50 cents.)

But sellers who want the items removed will have to pay shipping, and they will have to figure out how to sell their inventory in another channel.

We asked Fairleigh what Amazon would tell merchants who already purchased inventory for the holiday shopping season about the timing of this week’s announcement. “If existing sellers would like to sell DVD items with an MSRP of $25 or higher, they may apply to sell in the category,” he said. “Existing sellers may continue to sell on ASINs which have an MSRP lower than $25.” He also said, “Existing sellers are also able to list new offers on ASINs with MSRP of $25 or higher to sell-through remaining inventory until November 16, 2014.”

We asked Fairleigh what percentage of sellers Amazon expects this to impact; what percentage of sellers Amazon expects to allow into the program; and how Amazon chose the price point for this policy ($25 or greater). “We do not release this information publically,” was his response.

The fulltext of the letter Amazon sent sellers is published on the accompanying blog post, where we also noted that Amazon has more of an interest than simply as a marketplace – Amazon Studios produces original content for its streaming service that it also makes available for sale on DVDs.

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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). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.