Amazon Terms of Service

Are you Amazon ToS compliant
in regards to Buyer-Seller Messaging and communicating with buyers?

Amazon’s Policies and Agreements, or Terms of Service as it is more commonly known, outlines prohibited seller activities. Within the Policies and Agreements section of Seller Central, Amazon outlines:

  • Prohibited seller activities
  • Listing restrictions
  • Pre-approval requirements
  • Policy violations
  • Sellet agreement and related policies, and
  • Other policies and agreements around taxes, intellectual property, branding, fulfillment and more

The scope of this page is primarily focused on communication with buyers via Amazon’s Buyer-Seller Messaging Service.

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Who needs to be concerned about Amazon’s seller Terms of Service?

Anyone who sells on Amazon needs to be concerned and follow the Terms of Service. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Resellers
  • Retail and online arbitrage sellers
  • Wholesale sellers
  • Private label sellers
  • Brand owners
  • Agencies
  • First-party sellers

Essentially, any business that uses Buyer-Seller Messaging needs to be aware of what they can and can’t do with the service.

Where can you find Amazon’s seller Terms of Service?

You must be logged in to Seller Central to access the Terms of Service. Amazon’s Terms of Service (with regards to communicating with sellers) can be found inside Seller Central at Help / Manage orders / Reference / Communicate with buyers using the Buyer-Seller Messaging Service.

Why is Amazon’s seller Terms of Service so complicated?

We think the reason why Amazon’s seller Terms of Service is so complicated is that it’s hard to find the right answers to your questions. The help page inside Seller Central has 17 different sections, all of which have several subsections.

Amazon’s Terms of Service is actually quite succinct once you find what you’re looking for. Within the Guidelines for contacting buyers section, Amazon is clear about what a message cannot include:

If you send a permitted email to an Amazon customer, your message cannot include:

– Links to any websites
– Links to Amazon detail pages or storefronts
– Seller logos if they contain or display a link to the seller’s website
– Any marketing messages or promotions
– Any promotions for additional products or referrals to third-party products or promotions

There is very little ambiguity in these bullet points. Although Amazon doesn’t explicitly outline what marketing and promotional messages have to contain in order to be labeled as such, it’s clear that a seller shouldn’t use Buyer-Seller Messaging for stated reasons.

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Common misinterpretations of Amazon’s seller Terms of Service?

1. Asking for seller feedback and product reviews

The biggest misconception surrounding Amazon’s Terms of Service is that you can’t ask a buyer to leave you seller feedback or a product review. This is simply not true. In fact, sellers can and are encouraged to ask buyers to leave them feedback and/or a product review. Amazon states in its Seller Best Practices:

Build a good feedback rating: Customers pay close attention to feedback, and so do we as we monitor your performance. We’ve found that the keys to good feedback are accurately describing your items, getting items to buyers quickly, and being prompt in responding to buyer questions. You may also want to solicit feedback on your packing slips.

2. Sellers can divert negative reviews using an if/then messaging tactic

Amazon sellers used to be able to direct happy and unhappy buyers with a simple and clever messaging tactic. I call it “directing intent,” which means Amazon sellers were influencing a buyer’s actions in follow-up emails with a messaging template that went something like this:

Hello shopper,

If you are happy with your widget, go here to share your opinion. And if you’re not happy with your widget, please contact us so we can make it right.

Good day,

Amazon Seller

This template is now against Amazon’s Terms of Service. And if you use a template like this you could land in hot water.

The second bulleted section on the Customer product review policy page starts with: Violations to Customer Reviews policies include, but are not limited to, these actions. The seventh point states:

A seller diverts negative reviews to be sent to them or to a different feedback mechanism while positive reviews are sent to Amazon.

Simply put, if a seller tries to divert a negative review, they are violating Amazon’s ToS.

Amazon wants the integrity of a review to reflect what’s happening in the marketplace. And if a product is getting nothing but positive reviews, it’s not an honest representation of what the market believes.

Oftentimes negative reviews can tell you more about a product than the positive ones. However, you don’t want an overwhelming number of negative reviews but there naturally should be neutral and negative reviews for every product.

Read More: One-third of Amazon sellers believe influencing a buyer’s actions is OK

3. Sending multiple emails per order is best practice

Sending multiple emails per order on Amazon used to be a common practice. Seller Labs used to encourage its customers and other sellers to follow-up with their buyers using automated email workflows. These email workflows would send buyers multiple messages, like an order confirmation, out for delivery, delivery confirmation, and feedback and product review request emails.

That’s a lot of emails on top of what Amazon already sends. Needless to say, times have changed. And even though some sellers think that sending more emails is better, the opposite is true. Less is more.

So what changed? Amazon’s email opt-out update.
Amazon started allowing buyers to opt out of messages from sellers on March 28, 2017. As you know, this gave all of the chicken littles even more reason to panic. Many sellers thought this was the end of Buyer-Seller Messaging. However, the opposite was true: it made Buyer-Seller Messaging more important than ever.

You’re probably wondering how.

First, if a recipient can’t opt out of email communications from a company, it’s technically illegal under the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. Point five of the law states:

Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting an email from you in the future…You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you.

Second, Amazon buyers loved the update because they were no longer forced to receive emails they didn’t want. Those who didn’t want them opted out and those who liked them kept engaging. Sure, Amazon sellers can no longer send their emails to as many people. But the buyers who are receiving emails today are more than likely to engage with them. This means higher open and click-through rates.

This massive update has forced Amazon sellers to rethink what buyers want and how they want to be engaged. Seller Labs built opt-out management into Feedback Genius with the addition of the Global Blacklist feature. You can learn more about Amazon’s opt-out policy here.

What does Amazon’s Terms of Service say?

Amazon’s Terms of Service—as of late October 2018—used to say:

Customer Review Request email: After an order is completed, Amazon automatically sends an email to buyers asking them to leave a review and provide feedback. Additionally, you are allowed to send one email per order to request a Customer Review. If you decide to ask a buyer to provide a Customer Review, you cannot ask only for a positive review, nor can you request reviews solely from buyers who have had a positive experience. You also cannot ask customers to change or remove their review, attempt to influence the review or ask customers to send negative reviews to you directly and only write positive reviews on Amazon.

Essentially, Amazon was saying, yes, we already send an email to buyers soliciting feedback and a review, but if you the seller wish to ask for a review then you can send one email per order, too.

But for some reason, Amazon removed this section from the Customer Product Reviews section of the ToS. What’s even more puzzling is that Amazon hasn’t replaced this section with anything new.

So what should you do?

With Amazon, always look at the intent. We recommend that sellers still send one message per order. Even though Amazon’s ToS doesn’t say you can’t. Sending one email per order is still adhering to best practices.

There’s a lot of ambiguity. Until there are more specifics, it’s best to follow best practices.

Read more: Nearly half of Amazon sellers still believe sending multiple emails per order is best practice

4. Asking a buyer to change their product review

Within the last paragraph of the Customer product reviews section of Amazon’s Terms of Service, it says:

We encourage you to monitor reviews regularly and reach out to customers to resolve product or service issues. However, you cannot ask customers to change or remove their review, even after an issue is resolved.

Amazon makes it clear that they want you not only to monitor your reviews but you should reach out to customers with issues. Simple, right? But you can’t ask the buyer to remove their review after you’ve put in the work to resolve their issue.

You’re probably thinking, “What’s in it for me?” and you wouldn’t be wrong. Nearly half of all sellers believe it’s acceptable to ask a buyer to update or remove their product review after you’ve resolved their issues.

And rightly so because asking a buyer to update their review based off of a positive customer service experience seems like the logical thing to do, right?

Read more: Half of Amazon sellers believe it’s OK to ask buyers to change a product review

5. Linking from an email to a product detail or Amazon Storefront page

If you send a permitted email to an Amazon customer, your message cannot include:

– Links to any websites
– Links to Amazon detail pages or storefronts
– Seller logos if they contain or display a link to the seller’s website
– Any marketing messages or promotions
– Any promotions for additional products or referrals to third-party products or promotions

Simply put, if you link to anything other than a seller feedback or product review link, you’re in violation of Amazon’s ToS.

Read more: 83% of Amazon sellers don’t know they can’t link from an email to a detail page

6. Sending marketing and promotional materials for future purchases

Using Amazon’s Buyer-Seller Messaging service for marketing or promotional purposes is against Terms of Service—especially coupons—and half of sellers don’t know this.

Emailing a coupon code to make a future sale to a customer who recently purchased your product before sounds like a great marketing tactic. That’s because it is. If someone has purchased from you once, they are more than likely to purchase from you again. That’s why sending a coupon code makes so much sense.

But this isn’t the case for people who sell on Amazon. And half of Amazon sellers don’t realize that sending a coupon code to a buyer through Buyer-Seller Messaging is against the Terms of Service. As lucrative and easy as it is to sell on Amazon, there are particular nuances of the channel that sellers new and old need to be aware of when considering different marketing and promotion tactics.

By navigating the breadcrumb menu at the top of Seller Central, you can find what the ToS says about marketing material. Just go to Help / Manage orders / Reference / Communicate with buyers using the Buyer-Seller Messaging Service.

In the second paragraph, highlighted in yellow, you’ll find the section that references not using Buyer-Seller Messaging for marketing and promotional purposes. It says:

Important: In general, you can contact buyers only to complete orders or to respond to customer service questions. You cannot contact buyers for marketing or promotional purposes (including via email, physical mail, telephone, or otherwise). For more information, see the “Guidelines for contacting buyers” section in Buyer-Seller Messaging Service overview. Buyer-Seller Messaging is the only approved method for communicating with buyers on Amazon.

Although the ToS doesn’t explicitly mention coupons, it’s common knowledge that coupons are used for promotional purposes. As clear as the ToS is, sellers are either confused, unaware or unconcerned with what it says.

Read more: 50% of Amazon sellers believe it’s OK to email coupons for future purchases

7. Asking buyers to leave a product review

We surveyed hundreds of Amazon sellers and discovered that half of them don’t know they can directly ask a buyer to leave a product review.

Amazon product reviews have been and will continue to be a sticky topic for sellers and third-party service providers. But this isn’t surprising, especially with how Amazon has changed its policies on how sellers can get product reviews for their products. Lots of confusion exists within the industry around just what a seller can and can’t do to get a product review. But Amazon is clear that a seller can ask a buyer to leave a product review.

To view the Terms of Service, you must be logged in to Seller Central. Alternatively, you can locate this section of the ToS via the breadcrumb menu at the top of Seller Central: Help / Manage orders / Reference / Policies and agreements / Customer product reviews.

In the top section of the Customer product reviews page in Seller Central, it says:

You can ask buyers to write a review, but you cannot ask for positive reviews or ask a reviewer to change or remove their review.

This is about as straightforward as Amazon can get with telling sellers whether or not they can ask for product reviews. Unfortunately, most of the confusion around this topic comes from having at least three different pages dedicated to communicating with buyers.

This page is dedicated to understanding product reviews (or as Amazon is now calling them Customer reviews or Customer product reviews). The second bulleted list of this page lists violations to Amazon’s customer review policies. Most of the points expressed are focused around review manipulation, which is entirely different from asking for a product review altogether.

On the Amazon’s Communication Guidelines page, in the first yellow box, it says:

In any communication you have with buyers (including shipping box inserts), you cannot ask them to leave a positive customer review for your product, or to leave a review only if they had a positive experience with your product. Similarly, you cannot ask only customers who had a positive experience with your product to leave a review. It is also prohibited to offer them any compensation for a review, including money or gift cards, free or discounted products, refunds or reimbursements, or any other future benefits.

This section clearly outlines that sellers cannot ask for positive product reviews only or manipulate sellers into leaving positive product reviews. If you’re going to ask for product reviews then you have to ask everyone—for better or for worse.

Read more: 50% of Amazon Sellers Don’t Realize They Can Ask Buyers to Leave a Product Review

What does Amazon’s Terms of Service say?

To view the Terms of Service, you must be logged in to Seller Central. Alternatively, you can locate this section of the ToS via the breadcrumb menu at the top of Seller Central: Help / Manage orders / Reference / Communicate with buyers using the Buyer-Seller Messaging Service.

In the second paragraph, highlighted in yellow, you’ll find the section that references not using Buyer-Seller Messaging for marketing and promotional purposes. It says:

Important: In general, you can contact buyers only to complete orders or to respond to customer service questions. You cannot contact buyers for marketing or promotional purposes (including via email, physical mail, telephone, or otherwise). For more information, see the “Guidelines for contacting buyers” section in Buyer-Seller Messaging Service overview. Buyer-Seller Messaging is the only approved method for communicating with buyers on Amazon.

Although the ToS doesn’t explicitly mention coupons, it’s common knowledge that coupons are used for promotional purposes. As clear as the ToS is, sellers are either confused, unaware or unconcerned with what it says.

What Constitutes an Amazon Customer Review Policy Violation?

Here are the explicit policy violations that Amazon has outlined:

1. A seller cannot post a review of their own product or their competitor’s product.
2. A seller cannot offer a third party a financial reward, discount, free products, or other compensation in exchange for a review on their product or their competitor’s product. This includes using services that sell customer reviews, websites, or social media groups.
3. A seller cannot offer to provide a refund or reimbursement after the buyer writes a review (including reimbursement via a non-Amazon payment method). This could be done via buyer-seller messaging on Amazon or directly contacting customers or using 3rd party services, websites, or social media groups.
4. A seller cannot use a third-party service that offers free or discounted products tied to a review (for example, a review club that requires customers to register their Amazon public profile so that sellers can monitor their reviews).
5. A family member or employee of the seller cannot post a review of the seller’s product or a competitor’s product.
6. A seller cannot ask a reviewer to change or remove their review. They might also offer a refund or other compensation to a reviewer in exchange for doing so.
7. A seller cannot divert negative reviews to be sent to them or to a different feedback mechanism while positive reviews are sent to Amazon.
8. A seller cannot create a variation relationship between products with the aim of manipulating reviews and boosting a product’s star rating via review aggregation.
9. A seller cannot insert a request for a positive Amazon review or an incentive in exchange for a review into product packaging or shipping box.

What happens if someone is found in violation of Amazon’s seller Terms of Service?

If a seller violates Amazon’s review policies—and gets caught—they will likely face one or all of these penalties, which are:

1. Immediate and permanent withdrawal of the seller’s selling privileges on Amazon and withholding of funds.
2. The removal of all the product’s reviews and preventing the product from receiving future reviews or ratings.
3. Permanent delisting of the product from Amazon.
4. Legal action against the seller, including lawsuits and referral to civil and criminal enforcement authorities.
5. Disclosing the seller’s name and other related information publicly.

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