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Navigating Product Safety and Compliance on Amazon
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If you have been keeping up with news headlines in recent weeks, you know that Amazon’s product safety and compliance program has come under the spotlight. A recent Wall Street Journal report found more than 4,000 unsafe or federally banned products available for purchase on Amazon’s platform.
The awareness of bad actors attempting to evade Amazon’s marketplace policies is certainly nothing new. However, there have also been reports of Amazon approving of a seller or brand’s product listing prior to requesting or receiving the mandatory safety documentation, according to CNBC. In these instances, Amazon merchants have been required to provide this documentation within a short timeframe following their product listing going live or otherwise risk account suspension.
To avoid losing your selling privileges, it is imperative that you adhere to Amazon’s strict product safety and compliance policies, and ensure that your items are compliant prior to listing them on your storefront, so that you are prepared to provide the required safety documentation quickly upon Amazon’s impending request.
The Tech Behind Amazon’s Safety and Compliance Program
With a mission to be “the Earth’s most customer-centric company,” Amazon enforces a strict product safety and compliance program, designed to protect not only the customer but also its marketplace and merchants. In 2018 alone, the company invested over $400 million to protect its platform and customers, and designed measures to ensure products offered are safe, compliant, and authentic.
These measures begin when a seller attempts to open an account, during which Amazon employs a number of verifications and uses proprietary machine-learning technology to prevent black hat sellers from registering or listing a single product on the marketplace. With a combination of automated tools and a dedicated global team of compliance specialists that review submitted safety documentation, Amazon in 2018 blocked more than 3 billion suspect items from being listed on its platform.
In addition, Amazon’s technology continuously scans product listings and updates to detect concerns around active listings. Using natural language processing and machine learning, these tools review millions of products and customer reviews, and more than 5 billion daily updates to product detail pages to proactively block suspicious products.
Amazon’s Listing Restrictions
Regardless of whether Amazon has approved your product listing prior to verifying compliance, it is your responsibility as a seller or brand to be aware of and adhere to Amazon’s listing restrictions and product safety requirements.
All items offered on Amazon must comply with applicable laws and regulations, as well as the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s safety standards. Be sure to refer to these policies when listing and describing your products, as violations of Amazon’s listing policies could result in:
- Cancellation of listings
- Limits on listing privileges
- Suspension of listing privileges
- Removal of listing privileges
Any claims made on a product listing must be accurate and will require proof of accuracy, particularly for claims around health, safety, or performance, as well as testimonials or endorsements. These claims, including environmental claims, are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and those that will require supporting proof include listings that say a product:
- Is antimicrobial
- Is antibacterial
- Can reduce the risk of concussions
- Is environmentally friendly
- Is eco-friendly
- Is green
For pesticides or products you claim to have antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial, or other pesticidal properties, you must guarantee that they comply with the U.S. Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). In addition, these products must comply with state pesticide laws, which may include other registration and labeling requirements, and ingredient prohibitions. Amazon recommends you familiarize yourself with the Environmental Protection Agency’s overview of the FIFRA, California’s Pesticide Regulations, and the National Pesticide Information Center to stay abreast of the state-by-state variations and federal regulations.
Visit Amazon’s General Listing Restrictions page for a complete list of additional nuances. Also, be aware that certain product categories require pre-approval from Amazon before you can list items in those categories, and some require additional information or a supplemental guarantee. You should also review details of Amazon’s Restricted Products and FBA product restrictions, if you are operating an FBA model.
Dangerous Goods Awareness
Outside of Amazon’s product restrictions, there are some items that are deemed to be dangerous or contain hazardous materials but are still eligible to be listed and sold on Amazon’s platform.
The term “dangerous goods” might sound like items that are toxic or deadly, but Amazon uses this term, or “hazmat,” in reference to consumer products that are used on a daily basis, such as laptops, phones, or household cleaners. These items may pose a risk to consumers’ health and safety while storing, handling, or transporting because they contain flammable, pressurized, or corrosive substances.
All dangerous goods sent to Amazon must comply with the following regulations:
- Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49CFR)
- International Air Transport Association’s Dangerous Goods Regulations (IATA DGR)
- Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (ICAO Technical Instructions)
- International Maritime Organization’s International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code)
- Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling (GHS)
Magnetized material — such as speakers and large magnets — and lithium batteries — including power banks, cameras, mobile phones, and battery chargers — are currently allowed to be sold through FBA. There are many different types of lithium batteries, but the three main types you should be aware of are lithium-ion batteries, lithium metal batteries, and lithium-ion polymer batteries.
Amazon will not ship some lithium-ion batteries due to their high stored energy content. The eligibility status for lithium-ion batteries depends on the battery’s energy content in watt-hours (Wh) and the marketplace in which it is being sold. Review Amazon’s regulation of lithium-ion batteries to ensure your product containing lithium batteries is compliant in your marketplace.
Amazon also offers the FBA Dangerous Goods (Hazmat) Program in which sellers operating an FBA model can sell additional types of dangerous goods. Eligible products may be sent to Amazon fulfillment centers so long as they are eligible for FBA, packed in limited quantities, and are in new condition. To enroll in the program, you can use the “look up an ASIN” tool on Amazon’s Dangerous Goods Identification Guide.
Required Product Safety Documentation
Prior to listing your product on Amazon, you should familiarize yourself with Amazon’s required documentation and gather the information you will need in order to provide these records immediately upon Amazon’s request. Otherwise, you might find yourself scrambling to hit an urgent deadline or otherwise succumb to account suspension.
When you create or convert a listing for FBA, you will be required to answer a set of questions around dangerous goods and batteries. Make sure to provide accurate and complete information to ensure that your product is properly classified and not blocked for sale.
If your battery product utilizes lithium batteries, it will be classified as a dangerous good and you will be required to provide additional information, including:
- Battery type
- Number of batteries
- Battery weight
- Number of cells
- Lithium battery packaging
- Watt-hours per battery
- Lithium content per battery
If your product is deemed to be an alternate type of dangerous good, you will be required to provide Amazon with the product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS). This is a 16-part form prepared by the product manufacturer or importer that describes the product’s physical and chemical properties, physical and health hazards, routes of exposure, precautions for safe handling and use, emergency and first-aid procedures, and control measures.
Amazon utilizes these forms to determine whether your products are regulated as dangerous goods, correctly classify your products, identify the correct handling and disposal measures if a product spills or leaks at a fulfillment center, and confirm whether your products are non-regulated goods. An eligible SDS must comply with the following requirements:
- Was created or updated within the last five years
- Includes new GHS/CLP hazard identification information
- Matches your product listing
- Includes all 16 standard SDS sections
Conversely, you can provide an exemption sheet for products that are exempted from providing an SDS by law or federal regulations. This is only acceptable for batteries and products that contain or are sold with batteries as well as products that do not contain harmful chemicals.
Product safety and compliance is of utmost importance to Amazon. As such, the company’s policies and safety measures can feel incredibly complex and difficult to navigate. While this brief guide outlines several important rules of thumb to which you must adhere, it is important that you take proactive measures to fully read and understand the intricacies of these policies to ensure your product and listings are compliant.