To help make customers “informed shopping decisions”, from September 1, 2020, Amazon US will show the seller’s business name and address on their Amazon.com Seller Profile page, the company announced on Wednesday. For individuals, the page will show their individual name and address. Sellers were already required to give this information to Amazon, now they have to display it for the customers as well.
Sellers can choose to add more information if they so wish but Amazon has advised them to not include an email address to prevent spam and abuse; instead they should rely on Amazon’s Buyer-Seller Messaging system for electronic communication with customers. The company already required this in Europe, Japan and Mexico. Marketplace Pulse first reported this development.
It is not clear if displaying the seller’s physical address will suffice as a country of origin disclosure that the Department of Homeland Security had recommended in January, or if that would be required for each product listing. It is also not clear if Amazon has access to the messages exchanged on the Buyer-Seller messaging system. If the company has access to the content of these messages, it could be amassing a wealth of customer feedback that it could use to build its competing products. We have reached out to the company for more information.
In April, the Wall Street Journal had reported that Amazon, in violation of its stated policies, had used data about independent sellers to develop competing products, prompting American lawmakers to allege that Amazon might have lied to the American Congress during its July 2019 testimony before the House Judiciary’s subcommittee on antitrust.
The European Union was to file formal antitrust charges against Amazon in June due to its treatment of third-party sellers due to its dual role as a marketplace operator and a seller of its own products.
DHS had recommended this move to fight counterfeit products
In January this year, the DHS had released its report on fighting trafficking of counterfeit/pirated goods. The report had recommended that the private sector enhance their vetting of third-party sellers, inform customers of the identity of the storefront owners to improve transparency, and put in place clearly identifiable country of origin disclosures. It had also recommended establishing marketplace seller IDs by requiring sellers to provide names of their underlying business(es) so that related sellers could be linked together for better oversight.
US President Donald Trump had also signed an executive order that sought to fight the import of counterfeit goods. The order asked DHS to draw up rules to identify companies that were suspended from importing goods to the US and companies that have a high rate of contraband items in their shipments so that they may undergo higher scrutiny.
Indian government wants similar disclosures
According to the second draft e-commerce policy that the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) is working on, to fight counterfeiting, the government wants all e-commerce entities to display their phone number and email address for consumer grievance redressal along with the details of the sellers including their phone number, customer complaint number, email address and physical address. For imported goods, the country of origin would need to be specified.
In June, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s Government e-Marketplace (GeM) had made it mandatory for all sellers to enter the country of origin as they registered their new products. For already listed products, sellers have been told to update the country of origin. In addition, the portal has enabled the “Make in India” filter. According to some media reports, the DPIIT had asked e-commerce companies to figure out a way for their customers to be able to identify the country of origin for all products sold on their platforms. Traders’ body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) had made a similar demand.