Amazon Test Buys | Beware of Knockoffs
There are few things more detrimental to your Amazon business than counterfeit products. All too often, scammers will devastate a legitimate seller’s ratings and reputation by latching onto their listing with cheap knockoffs. If your Amazon business is being damaged by these immoral sellers, Amazon test buys might be the best way to stop scammers in their tracks.
What is a Test Buy?
A test buy is when a seller purchases a competitor’s product to “test” the quality of the item and report inferior and/or misrepresented products to Amazon.
Amazon Test buys are the best, and truthfully the only, counterfeit reporting option available to sellers with untrademarked products. If you have a trademarked item, either on your own or through the manufacturer, you can bypass the test buying process and submit a trademark violation here.
Try to Troubleshoot the Problem Yourself
Before you invest the time, money and effort into completing a test buy, you may want to contact the counterfeit seller. Send an email notifying them that you think they are ripping off your product and ask them to provide you with proof of authenticity and supplier details. There is about a 50/50 chance that the scammer will remove the product on their own after receiving your email.
Keep in mind, that Amazon does not require you to contact the seller before conducting a test buy. That being said, it can be an effective tool for convincing scammers to remove their product before you take further action.
If you do choose to email the seller, we recommend that you consult with an attorney before doing so. They can provide you with legal guidance on how to construct your email and properly address any ongoing communication with the seller in question.
If That Doesn’t Work, Turn to a Test Buy
If the seller still refuses to take down their product or does not respond to your request within 48 hours, then it’s time to perform a test buy. This will help prove to Amazon that the seller is marketing a counterfeit product.
To complete your test buy, start by purchasing the competitor’s product. As you make your purchase, keep the following tips in mind to help protect yourself and your business from possible retaliation.
- Do not tell the seller you are doing a test buy. You are under no obligation to contact them or warn them of your intentions.
- Do not make your purchase via the buyer account associated with your seller account. Instead, use a separate buyer account or have someone else place the order on your behalf.
- Send your package to an address or PO box that is not associated with your business. This will make it harder for the seller to identify you.
The more anonymous you can remain, the better. If a scammer suspects that you are doing a test buy, they could very well cancel your order or send you your own product instead.
How to Submit a Test Buy
Once the product has arrived, inspect it carefully. If it is truly low quality and does not come as advertised, you can submit a ‘Not as Described’ violation report to Amazon Seller Performance. To do so, visit sellercentral.amazon.com/cu/contact-us, select ‘Other Issues’ and then ‘Report a violation.’ To verify your claim, Amazon will need the following information:
- The ASIN/ISBN of the product detail page
- The product title
- The store or business name of the counterfeit seller
- Your order ID number to confirm your purchase. If someone else placed the order for you, you will need to explain in your report that “Order #xxxxxxxxxxxx / (name of the person on the order) was a test buy, placed at (your name)’s request.”
- Concise bullet points detailing the violations
- Photos of the product you received, including the shipping packaging, the item packaging and the item itself. Make sure these are high-quality photos. Side-by-side comparisons of the listing photos and your photos are a great way to support the discrepancies discussed in your bullet points.
Don’t Veer Off Course
As you are putting together your report, stick to clear discrepancies regarding the quality of the product. Do not mention anything about different manufacturers, trademark violations or copyright infringements. Remember, you are submitting a simple ‘Not as Described’ report – not an infringement violation. Try to stick to phrases like “This does not match the description...” or “The product I received is different than what I ordered...” and avoid any mention of “counterfeit,” “knockoff,” “fake,” “infringement” or “scam.” You are nothing more than a dissatisfied customer reporting a product that does not match the ASIN it is listed under. End of story.
The Golden Rule of Amazon Test Buys
Amazon has very few perimeters surrounding test buys. Many Amazon consultants, like ourselves, have established guardrails and rules for how to construct a test buy, but none of these have been supported by Amazon.
The only hard and fast rule Amazon has put into place concerning test buys is this: never submit negative feedback or a bad product review when performing a test buy. This is important so we’ll say it again, never leave negative feedback when performing a test buy. Amazon’s policies very clearly outline that:
You may not write reviews for products or services that you have a financial interest in, including reviews for products or services that you or your competitors sell.
Sellers who break this golden rule of test buys, even in an attempt to report a scammer, could be flagged for a policy violation.
So, What Happens Next?
Once you have submitted your report, there is nothing left to do but wait. While Seller Performance investigations are not disclosed for privacy reasons, Amazon will carefully review your claim and take the appropriate disciplinary action. In most cases, you will see that the seller’s listing has been removed from Amazon within 24-48 hours of your submission.
After the product has been removed, feel free to request a return so you can get a refund on your test buy purchase. If the seller refuses or ignores your return request, you can file a claim with Amazon to secure your refund.
A word of caution: if you are performing regular test buys, be wary of how often you submit a return request. While rare, Amazon has banned customers who return a high percentage of their purchases.
Protect Your Products from Scammers
Unfortunately, scammers have become all too common on Amazon. They flock to the platform hoping to leech off other brands’ products and make a quick buck for themselves.
If you notice a large number of sellers offering counterfeits of your product, don’t be afraid to warn customers of these schemes on your product page and highlight the high quality of your own product.
Letting customers know that imitations are out there and explaining why your product is superior can be a great way to circumvent scammers while you work to remove their listings from the platform. As always, make sure that the content you put out there is in accordance with Amazon guidelines.