Amazon announced that starting November 26, the Selling Policies and Seller Code of Conduct will be updated to specifically include the prohibition of Price Fixing and Search Rank Manipulation.
Amazon's Code of Conduct
This update is in an effort to make selling on Amazon.com an even playing field – meaning sellers need to rank organically, without manipulation, or through paid advertising. Here is how Amazon worded it:
“We welcome and encourage coupons, discounts, deals, and other tools to lower prices for customers and drive incremental sales. However, consider it a violation of the Amazon Seller Code of Conduct to attempt influencing the search results by inflating search ranking through keyword manipulation or incentivizing customers’ searches to appear as organic behavior.”
Staying Compliant with Amazon's Policies
It's important to understand the following to ensure you are staying compliant with Amazon's Code of Conduct.
What is Price Fixing?
Amazon did not provide their own definition of what price fixing is. They only stated that Sellers must “Not engage in conduct that violates price fixing laws.” So, we have to turn to the legal definition of “Price Fixing”.
According to www.ftc.gov: “Price fixing is an agreement (written, verbal, or inferred from conduct) among competitors that raises, lowers, or stabilizes prices or competitive terms.” This means that sellers cannot manipulate the market by engaging in price fixing among competitors.
What is Search Rank/Keyword Manipulation?
The Selling Policies and Seller Code of Conduct page states: “Attempting to influence search results by inflating search ranking through keyword manipulation or incentivizing customers’ searches to appear as organic behavior”.
Amazon does not expand any further on what “inflating search ranking through keyword manipulation or incentivizing customers” means exactly – and there are no examples provided either. We dove in further, to try and get a definition of exactly what keyword manipulation is. We found that most of the time, “Keyword Manipulation” refers to keyword spamming (using the same keyword tens or hundreds of times in the backend or the frontend), creating multiple low-quality listings for the same product (this has long been against Amazon’s policies), and creating PDPs that “trick” SEO into appearing on search pages that are irrelevant to the actual product at hand.
This information is helpful; however, it still doesn’t tell us exactly what Amazon considers to be manipulation. So, we opened a case with Seller Support to get more information. According to the Support Reps we spoke to:
Price Fixing activities include (but are not limited to):
- Setting a reference price on a product or service that misleads customers;
- Setting a price on a product or service that is significantly higher than recent prices offered on or off Amazon; or
- Selling multiple units of a product for more per unit than that of a single unit of the same product.
- Setting a shipping fee on a product that is excessive. Amazon considers current public carrier rates, reasonable handling charges, as well as buyer perception when determining whether a shipping price violated our fair pricing policy.
Search Rank Manipulation activities include (but are not limited):
- Including statements that are only temporarily true, such as, "new," "on sale," or "available now."
- Subjective claims, such as “best,” “cheapest,” “amazing,” and so on.
- Abusive or offensive terms
- Mentioning subjective claims such as amazing, good quality, and so on, since most customers don't use subjective terms in their queries.
- Including product identifiers such as brand names, product names, compatible product names, ASINs, UPC codes, and so on.
- Providing excessively long content. Respect the limits that are set for different fields.
This update might require you to change your usual processes/strategies when selling on Amazon.com. We recommend all Brands and Sellers on Amazon to review the Selling Policies and Seller Code of Conduct on a regular basis to ensure you are compliant with all policies.
With the constant updates in online marketplaces, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest changes. If you are a client looking for additional information, contact your strategist or if you are interested in learning more about how Retail Bloom can assist your brand efforts in online marketplaces, schedule a consultation with our team.
For more updates on marketplaces, visit our full Marketplace Updates content gallery.