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Readers React to News of Amazon UPC Code Crackdown

Readers are responding to our coverage of Amazon UPC code requirements. As we noted in this recent blog post, while Amazon already works to keep its catalog clean, sellers are reporting that Amazon is expanding its crackdown on incorrect UPC codes.

While “crackdown” sounds negative, some sellers are happy about it since, as we noted, incorrect UPC codes can lead to customer (and merchant) confusion.

We’ve heard from readers since we ran the blog post and an accompanying articleabout the cost of buying UPC codes from GS1 US versus resellers.

Legitimacy of Some UPC Code Resellers 
A reader wrote, “GS1 in my opinion has outrageous fees. Like the annual cost to “renew” the UPC codes, after the upfront payment. Some sellers could pay them many thousands of dollars. In any case I bought my prefix in the 1990s. I have lifetime legal ownership of my company prefix.

“While I do not sell any UPC codes there are others that do sell them 100% legally and at a fraction of the cost of GS1. GS1 does not want you to know about such things, so they claim all other UPC codes are not any good. GS1 lost the lawsuit many years ago which protects my UPC code purchase prior to 2002. They tried to scam me out of annual fees after we had full ownership which we were not required to pay and did not pay. See this on Mybarcodestore.com (this explains more).

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“Just wanted to give you this information. There seems to be alot of misinformation out there.”

UPC Codes and Product Bundles 
Another seller pointed us to a thread on the Amazon discussion boards where a seller wrote:

“I just got off the phone with Seller Support. Essential the rep just told me that because of the new policy requiring all UPC Codes to be GS1 certified as of right now you cannot create a bundle on Amazon. Basically my new UPC Code does not match the products I am trying to bundle. Which is or course a paradox because the new bundled UPC code is not supposed to match the old products. The rep is supposed to be getting back to me. In the meantime. Does anyone have any tips or ideas on how to get around this?”

Amazon allows bundling – according to the Product Bundling Policy (you must be signed in to Amazon as a seller to access the page), “Sellers can create bundles composed of different products to create a new bundled product. Well-designed product bundles provide convenience and value to buyers. Adhering to the policies on this page will help Amazon customers locate product bundles more easily and prevent duplicate or near-duplicate listings.” And the policy sets out guidelines for sellers.

But the post generated discussion from sellers who said many people had abused bundles. “It is cheaper and cost effective for Amazon to create a program that stops the abuse which will also prevent bundles rather than deal with those sellers who are abuse the system,” wrote one seller.

Another seller pointed out, “I was told by Catalog department today that bundles of the same products such as pack of 2, pack of 3, etc are prohibited and will be taken down (regardless if this a part of variation or stand alone page).” The seller noted there was an official policy on variation creations.

Another seller said that while they understood bundles are very important to some sellers, they didn’t think the problem would be fixed any time soon – “It is not clear that bundles are to Amazon’s benefit, since they generate lower fees than separate sales of the individual components of the bundle,” the seller wrote, and said, “If creating new bundles was an important part of your strategy, I suggest you get to work immediately at finding a way to replace that revenue.”

UPC Codes and Private Label Sellers 
Another reader said there’s an exception to Amazon UPC requirements. “Regarding this statement in your article: “Amazon already suppresses ASINs that are missing UPCs or have invalid UPCs – meaning those listings won’t show up in search and browse pages.”

“This isn’t necessarily true. We are a private label seller and have registered our brand. We do not have to provide a UPC when listing products.”

Selling online presents its challenges, and keeping up with marketplace requirements is just one of them.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog (April 19, 2016).

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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.