Amazon’s New UPC Policy: What You Need To Know

0aAndrew Schydlowsky TrackStreet2

The fact that Amazon is now the third largest retailer in the world, according to Forbes, means that when the online marketplace makes changes to its policies, manufacturers and brands across virtually every industry need to take notice.

Even if your company does not sell directly through the Amazon marketplace, if you sell through a network of retailers, chances are your products are represented on, which means that the company’s recent UPC policy updates will likely affect your brand. Here’s what you need to know.

What Amazon’s New UPC Rules Mean For Your Company

In 2016, Amazon made major changes to its UPC (Universal Product Code) policy. The upshot of the new rules is that the company is now actively looking for product codes sold on that it deems invalid. In other words, Amazon will now be going more aggressively after retailers using its marketplace to offer products they are not authorized to sell.


This represents both good news and, potentially, some bad news for your company.

The good news: Rogue retailers, or sellers who might be representing your products on Amazon without your knowledge and without adhering to the basic levels of customer support and product information accuracy you would demand from an authorized seller, are now more likely to appear on Amazon’s radar, and to be pulled from the marketplace.

The potential bad news, though, is that if you or your legitimate retail partners are not in compliance with the new UPC policy, you or they might inadvertently get ensnared by Amazon’s new rules. This could result in your products being at least temporarily pulled from the Amazon marketplace until you can sort out the issue — which could cause lost revenue and weaken your relationships with your authorized resellers.

All of which is to say that it is going to require a little work on your part to make sure your company and your retailers are in compliance with these new rules. Fortunately, though, if you take the simple and painless steps listed below, you should be on the right side of Amazon’s updated UPC policy.

4 Steps To Improve Your Compliance With Amazon’s UPC Policy

1.    Review your existing UPCs using the GS1 search tool.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the institution, the GS1 (Global Standards 1) is the nonprofit entity that assigns product ID numbers, which are converted to barcodes.

In fact, the GS1 is the only institution legally allowed in the US to license product barcodes. Amazon, therefore, is using the GS1 database to vet UPC codes listed in its marketplace. This means that if the product codes you or your retailers are using for your products do not match those in the GS1 database, Amazon will deem them invalid and might remove them from its marketplace.

So your first step should be to review your product line’s UPCs using the GS1 search tool. If you find products with UPCs that do not match those in this database, you need to quickly order codes from the GS1.

2.    Alert your resellers of any unauthorized UPCs under which they might be selling your products

Let’s say you discover in your GS1 database search that some of your company’s products were purchased from an entity other than the GS1, meaning they have UPC codes that Amazon will deem invalid. If Amazon happens to spot these inconsistencies before you can correct them, they might pull down those product listings.

If this happens to your legitimate resellers, who had no idea they were representing your products with faulty UPCs, that could cause significant harm to your relationships with those companies.

So if you discover a non-GS1-issued UPC among your products, you want to alert your resale channel immediately. Let them know you spotted the potential issue before anyone else did — including Amazon — and that your team is taking steps right now to purchase and send them legitimate UPC codes.

3.    Make sure your company or brand name matches the GS1-issued codes

Assuming your products’ UPCs match up in the GS1 database, you then want to check to make sure your company’s name is also a match to those UPC codes, or that it at least matches the brand name under which your company is currently operating.

The prefixes of your UPCs reflect the company name under which you purchased the codes. This means if your company name has significantly changed, or if you’re using a brand name that is materially different from your company’s name, you will want to correct this issue with Amazon — before they catch the inconsistency and potentially take action.

If your company has a “doing business as” or “trading as” name which matches your brand, you will likely be in compliance. But it is still worth reviewing these details and, if you believe there’s any chance an Amazon review of your UPCs might trigger a red flag, take the proactive step of contacting Amazon’s Seller Support and providing them evidence, such as your DBA certificates, that you are indeed the brand owner.

Which brings me to a step you should take even if you’re not worried about Amazon’s UPC issues.

4.    Sign up for the Amazon Brand Registry

One smart strategy to avoid compliance issues with Amazon’s UPC rules is for your company — or a third party you designate, such as a brand protection expert — to sign up for the Amazon Brand Registry.

This registry allows your company (or a trusted third party) to become the Amazon-recognized “brand owner” of the products sold across the marketplace under your brand. And as the brand owner, when you are selling your own products on Amazon, you will not need UPC codes.

When your retailers are selling your products on Amazon, though, they will need valid UPC codes — so all of the suggestions here still apply for your resale channel.

Signing up for the Amazon Brand Registry also has other benefits. Becoming the official brand owner of your products on Amazon gives you more control over your product information across all resellers, and it signals to Amazon that your listings will have a consistent level of quality and accuracy wherever they appear in the marketplace.

Amazon UPC Compliance: Part Of A Larger Brand Protection Strategy

Amazon’s new, strict policy regarding product codes is also a helpful reminder of how much more complex the e-Commerce landscape becomes every year — and how difficult it can be to make sure that your products and brand are always being accurately represented across every online channel.

This is why, regardless of the steps you take to bring your company and your resellers into compliance with the Amazon UPC policy, you might want to use this compliance initiative as an opportunity to review your current brand protection strategy — if you have one in place at all — and consider deploying a more automated, comprehensive program to protect the integrity of your brand.

Andrew Schydlowsky is founder and CEO of the Internet brand protection platform TrackStreet, which monitors the web for brands and manufacturers to ensure their MAP and other policies are being adhered to, and automatically responds to violations. A serial entrepreneur, Schydlowsky is also founder of Sticky, the leading online tool for adding customer-driven conversations to video and web pages, and he founded and ran the health and wellness e-tailer Performance Unlimited. The Pacific Business Times has recognized Schydlowsky with a 40 Under 40 Award.

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