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Amazon Places New Limits on Amazon Prime

Amazon has placed new restrictions on how many users can access a Prime account and is excluding businesses from the program. People pay $99 for Amazon Prime membership, and until this month, were allowed to share their account with four other members.

A new provision called “Amazon Households” restricts members to sharing the program with up to six members: two adults, each with their own Amazon account, and four children, who don’t need Amazon accounts in order to be a part of the household.

In addition, the rules covering free shipping for businesses has changed. Here is how the Amazon Prime program used to work:

“Free or paid Amazon Prime members can share their shipping benefits with up to four additional family members living in the same household. If you purchase a Prime membership for a small business, you may invite up to four co-workers to shop with this corporate account.”

But that has been replaced by new wording, and it includes no mention of business accounts. Apparently those who want to get free shipping for their business must join the Amazon Business program, which Amazon introduced in the spring. Businesses can open a Business account for free, and, “With FREE Two-Day Shipping on orders of $49 or more, Amazon keeps your business agile with our fast, free, reliable shipping. You get unlimited deliveries on more than 20 million eligible items.”

Note that individuals (non-Prime members) get free shipping if they purchase $35 or more, but they receive slower delivery – 5-8 business days, not 2 days.

Amazon was never very particular about making sure those other four members added to Prime accounts were part of a member’s household, but it has now changed the way members share their Prime accounts.

In the past, members could add people to their Prime account by entering their name, relationship, birthday, and email address, and invitees would need to know the member’s month and day of birth to accept the invitation.

Now to share Prime benefits, both adult account holders need to authorize each other to use credit and debit cards associated with their Amazon accounts for purchases on Amazon. “This will not affect either of their current payment settings, but each adult will be able to copy the credit and debit cards of the other account to his or her Amazon account and use them for purchases with Amazon.”

Amazon did not announce the new restrictions on Prime. Android police covered the news and wrote, “If you’ve already shared your Prime account with more than one person, you’re grandfathered in.” It had noticed the change on SlickDeals.net.

It’s unclear whether the change is an indication of whether Amazon will crack down on how Prime members use their accounts. For example, under “other limitations,” Amazon writes: “Prime members are not permitted to purchase products for the purpose of resale, rental, or to ship to their customers or potential customers using Prime benefits.” (The word “rental” in its policy is new.)

But as we’ve reported previously, online sellers have used Amazon as a drop-shipper using Prime to get free shipping.

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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.