Amazon will provide sellers and shipping carriers anonymized phone numbers for contacting buyers in the event of a delivery problem, but it's not carte blanche to contact customers, and some sellers have concerns about the new system.
"You or your delivery carrier may only contact the customer via phone for delivery issues through our phone number anonymization system.
"When calling a customer, use the temporary phone number, including the extension if provided, and follow the prompts. The phone number will expire once the package is delivered. This system is scheduled to be rolled out over the next few weeks.
"As a reminder, in accordance with our Communication guidelines, you should only contact customers to fulfill an order. If you need to contact a customer for any reason other than package delivery, please use the Buyer-Seller Messaging Service.
"Refer to the Prohibited seller activities and actions policy for information about appropriate use of customer phone numbers."
Carriers must enter a five-digit extension and the customer's postal code before they will be connected to the customer.
Amazon had been providing access to customer phone numbers to professional sellers who fulfill their own orders so that they could comply with shipping carrier label requirements, but they were not allowed to use the number to contact the customer. From Amazon's help pages
, "Never contact a customer using their phone number. To contact a customer about their order, only use Buyer-Seller Messaging."
As the new policy states, the anonymized phone numbers are temporary and will expire once the package is delivered. That has some sellers concerned that the phone number might in some cases expire before a carrier needs to contact a buyer.
When some sellers described on discussion boards concerns about orders shipped overseas or using freight, a colleague pasted the following from Amazon's help page: "In limited cases, such as Value Added Services orders, orders shipped to customers outside the United States, and orders using the freight shipping template, we still provide actual customer phone numbers."
Marketplaces like Amazon are in a quandary. On the one hand, giving out phone numbers to sellers can help improve deliverability. On the other hand, sellers can abuse the information. Beyond those concerns is the major issue of privacy regulations that are rolling out across the world, with the EU's GDPR mandate a huge issue for sellers and marketplaces. Being able to give shippers a way to contact customers without handing over the customer's phone number will likely help with compliance issues.
Ultimately if sellers could be sure that buyers see messages sent through marketplace messaging system, it would solve a lot of concerns on the part of sellers.
Ironically, as they were absorbing the news about anonymized numbers, one user described an unpleasant experience
in which, after leaving a seller negative feedback for an order, the seller harassed him via the messaging system - and by phone - to try and get him to remove the feedback.