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Sat Nov 20 2021 23:46:42

Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing

By: Ina Steiner

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News of an Amazon policy update touched a nerve among sellers, particularly about pricing practices. Amazon announced it was updating its Selling Policies and Seller Code of Conduct "to include language explicitly prohibiting price fixing and search rank manipulation."

The news sparked a dialog over Amazon's current price-control practices, with some bristling at the fact Amazon limits how they can price their items.

Some sellers said Amazon forces them to price their items at too high a price, such as a seller who said, "Some drop shipper has our product listed at $60. I cannot list it for the actual price of $17.95. Amazon has flagged it as a pricing error and 3 months of back and forth with seller support does nothing."

But it works the other way too. A seller said they would agree with Amazon's policy if, after notifying sellers when it thinks they made a pricing mistake, it let them confirm the price is correct. "But when you tell us the price is too high and provide a convenient button to click to change to the price Amazon says is correct, that is price fixing."

"And, the seller continued, "to all those who will say Amazon is legal because the price is lower for the buyer and that is what the law is all about, Amazon does this if you price too low too forcing you to raise your price."

Friday's announcement linked to the Amazon page for Selling Policies and Seller Code of Conduct, but it did not highlight what wording had changed. There were several references to pricing included on the page:

Sellers must not engage in conduct that violates price fixing law.

Examples of unfair activities include: Attempting to increase the price of a product after an order is confirmed.

In addition to pricing concerns, sellers specifically called out the following provision:

Filing Infringement Notices as an Agent or Brand Protection Agency
Amazon understands that many brands may choose to have brand protection agencies or agents report intellectual property infringement on their behalf and accepts submissions from authorized agents. However, Amazon does not permit individuals with active selling accounts to file infringement notices as an agent of a brand when the filing of those notices could benefit their own selling account (through removing competing listings, for example). Any sellers filing notices as an agent to benefit their own status as a seller may have their selling account terminated.

"This is going to come as a bit of a nasty surprise to a lot of Sellers," one seller wrote. 

And referring to the last sentence in the provision, a seller wrote, "To me this says that sellers cannot file notices of infringement unless they are the actual brand owner."

Sellers who applauded the policies said they hoped Amazon would enforce them. One seller said the policies should have teeth and thought Amazon should add to the announcement, "We will actually investigate this abuse and take immediate action."

The November 19th announcement about updated Selling Policies and Seller Code of Conduct come 2 weeks after it clarified its policy on incentives that drive customer discovery and conversion, "particularly through rebates, coupons, and other marketing incentives" that are offered outside Amazon "as a way of driving a purchase in our store." You can find context in this AuctionBytes Blog post.

Amazon also had a warning for sellers who outsource any of their selling practices. "We would like to remind sellers that you are responsible for the actions taken by your account, even those handled through third-party service providers," it said in this week's announcement.

The new policies take effect on November 26, 2021.

Do you think Amazon sellers have too little control over pricing? Does anything else strike you about the seller policies?



Comments (10) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing   Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing

by: postbuster This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 22 06:35:29 2021

Not that I sell on amazon, but to answer your question: YES!!

The very thought that a venue has the right to dictate your prices is self defined.
DICTATORSHIP!

They don't have the right regardless of whatever policies with which they try to deceive sellers.

''Sellers must not engage in conduct that violates price fixing law.''

This statement alone denies the context of the rule, and is casually thrown in as a disclaimer to assume that the company has the best of intentions.
What amazon is doing IS PRICE FIXING.  Tailored to entice buyers for ideal cost.

Why then does amazon not show their seller squeezing suggestions on commercials?
''We harass our sellers to lose money, that way the only profit you pay goes to us.''

For the record,
Price fixing, Price gouging, and any form of business manipulation is illegal under federal law when a state of emergency is enacted.

This is why sellers saw an uptick in business back in April of 2020 during the nationwide shutdown.  

Perminate Link for Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing   Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing

by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 22 07:06:39 2021

I have no words.  I do wish Congress would bring AMZ in again and ask some hard questions and pass regulations.  I think sellers & buyers are going to have to depend on the State's Attys to regulate and investigate.

Perminate Link for Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing   Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing

This user has validated their user name. by: Bidonmine

Mon Nov 22 10:54:26 2021

Just to correct a statement made in the above article... whether a price is forced to match low or high prices, it is price fixing.

Perminate Link for Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing   Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing

by: oddpeanut This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 22 13:01:29 2021

I feel this really reverts back to some sellers taking advantage of world events. Sadly this policy affects all sellers not only the ones taking advantage.
I bought a product a couple of months ago and I paid $19 for the item. Went to buy the item again from the same seller and it was $32! I obviously went somewhere else and paid $24 instead of $32. Another item was $6 and Walmart had it for $3. People are shopping around and when they find it cheaper somewhere else it hurts Amazon's pockets. Most of my orders are not even delivered next day anymore so that perk to pay more to get your order asap is not valid. I have also noticed that Walmart's product reviews are more current and a lot of items I consider purchasing on Amazon have old reviews. So are people not shopping on Amazon or have shoppers just stopped reviews? I don't think they are doing as well they make themselves out to be. If they force sellers to sell cheap then it's more business for them. They don't care about the sellers only their bottom line.  

Perminate Link for Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing   Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing

by: mindelec This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 22 15:02:17 2021

recently amazon started asking for MRPs on the listing pages for books (which is nearly impossible to know for some older books and book clubs.  plus books published 20 years ago were cheaper.  i'm sure that at some point this will play into their demanding that sellers price used copies under that price.

so price fixing rules are coming from the king of price fixing...

Perminate Link for Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing   Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing

by: shut1968 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 22 16:27:42 2021

and this is coming from a company that likes to price item 10 cents over wholesale cost during the holidays.

Perminate Link for Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing   Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing

by: JackieBlue This user has validated their user name.

Tue Nov 23 16:56:57 2021

I don't like it.  But, Amazon owns their platform.  They can decide it until, and if, the government decides it is anti-trust issue.  Not something I can initiate.  If I cannot meet their "criteria", I won't be able to sell there.  

Perminate Link for Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing   Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing

This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Wed Nov 24 11:54:14 2021

All this Venue-Harbored online selling has reached The End.
No meaningful profit to be made.
Corporate is slowly commandeering our businesses.
Literally better off with a lemonade stand in the front yard.
Small unique businesses are better off, off line.
Or, just go back to Brick and Mortar employment.
A real paycheck, meeting real people along the way, and real time off.
This whole thing has hit the wall.
Here's to 2022.

Perminate Link for Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing   Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing

by: BurglePork This user has validated their user name.

Fri Nov 26 17:27:08 2021

I'm shocked to hear they're asking anyone to RAISE prices! This is the first I've heard of that.

I have a number of scarce out-of-print books that Amazon has demanded I lower the price on. If I don't lower it to within their acceptable limits, the item is suppressed (they stop showing my copy to customers, so it can't be sold.) Yet often there are other copies available at an even HIGHER price from much bigger sellers than I, so in many cases this isn't keeping the price down. Demand and rarity drive the prices for these books, which are usually selling elsewhere for the same price I want to ask, or sold on Amazon for that price in the past. Occasionally I'll have the only copy on Amazon (well, the only one I'm aware of - maybe some other seller also has one Amazon is hiding) which means the book is unavailable, period, unless I agree to sell at Amazon's ridiculously low ceiling. In a very few cases the book was unavailable anywhere at all - at which point, it seems to me, it makes no sense to try and impose a price because there's no other copy to compare to. (And shouldn't it be whatever the market will bear for an item that rare?)

It's just koo-koo bananas. I don't see any advantage to limiting some sellers' prices while letting some sellers set very prices on  

Perminate Link for Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing   Amazon Policy Update Sparks Dialog over Pricing

by: BurglePork This user has validated their user name.

Fri Nov 26 17:31:06 2021

Whoops!

... set very high prices on the same merchandise. I can't think of any rational reason to do so, to say nothing of possible ethical/legal problems with such a policy.  



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