Barcodes, GS1 & GTIN exemptions are complicated topics, especially with the conversation constantly being muddled with bad information from online forums. In this Episode Chris & Leah take a deep dive into this convoluted subject, explaining what you need to do if your GS1 UPCs are flagged by Amazon.
[00:00:07] Leah: Hi, Amazon sellers. I'm Leah McHugh from ecommerceChris and I am here with the ecommercechris, Chris McCabe.
[00:00:18] Chris: Hello.
[00:00:19] Leah: Hi, how are you?
[00:00:21] Chris: I'll be better once we have this conversation about barcodes and GS1 and GTIN exemptions, because this has been on the uptick, we've heard a lot of people asking us questions and many sellers don't seem to understand this too clearly.
[00:00:33] Leah: Yeah. I mean, they changed the policy seven years ago now or eight?
[00:00:40] Chris: And you're the perfect person to ask because we've heard you in the past referred to--
[00:00:45] Leah: As a fear monger?
[00:00:47] Chris: Nope. You didn't know I was gonna say this before we started recording as the barcode babe.
You've been referred as that..
[00:00:55] Leah: I have? Was this by you?
[00:00:56] Chris: You knew this. Okay. Everybody she's pretending not to know this. And I would like to add to this, the GTIN goddess, GTIN exemption goddess.
[00:01:06] Leah: I feel like only you have said this. But okay, sorry GS1.
[00:01:11] Chris: So a lot of sellers listings are suspended, they get policy warnings, listing violations. What is going on would you say?
[00:01:20] Leah: So the policy changed like seven or eight years ago at this point. I can't exactly remember when, which said that Amazon checks the authenticity of your GTIN against the GS1 database. And if the information there doesn't match the information on your detail page, they may suspend the listing. So they said that seven or eight years ago, didn't really enforce it. We did see, you know, in the last few years, people having trouble listing, creating new listings with non GS1 UPCs, but in terms of listings are already in the catalog, we really didn't see a whole lot of enforcement there. It's really only in the last six months or so where we've started to see more listings being flagged for not matching the GS1 database and the thing that we've been seeing the most of is actually people that have GS1 UPCs that are having their listings taken down for potentially not matching the database, which is kind of funny considering how many there are that don't.
[00:02:18] Chris: Let's just stop there for a second. So what's the initial attempt to resolve that, that you're doing with people?
[00:02:25] Leah: Well, so it's not what I'm doing, it's what people who come to us have already tried. So you get a notification, it tells you to submit proof that your EPC matches. So it wants you to submit your GS1 certificate and it wants you to submit proof of the relationship between your company and the brand if it's not the same entity. Normally in The form of a trademark registration of the brand name by your company. That's the easiest proof to provide also like in doing business as certification whatever, whatever the case may be on your particular account, but the path they give you through seller support and generally what ends up happening is that they just keep sending you the same notification in response to what you've submitted, asking you for the same information that you've already just given them.
. But what I have found is if you are brand registered, You can simply submit a technical issue ticket through the brand registry team, asking them to whitelist either the prefix or the UPC. If you only bought individual UPCs for your brand, provide them with the GS1 certificate, provide them with the proof of relationship in the form of a trademark registration, whatever, and then brand registry can whitelist that and then your as your ASIN gets reinstated.
[00:03:38] Chris: I think their posts on the forums or threads that we've seen, or maybe Facebook groups, I've noticed a lot of sellers go straight to this idea of I have a saving grace it's the GTIN exemption, or there's been posts on LinkedIn about GTIN exemption, GTIN exemption. So maybe just define that and then is that significant or not within this conversation?
[00:03:58] Leah: So you can apply for a GTIN exemption where you are essentially telling Amazon this product does not have a GTIN and I would still like to list it on Amazon and they allow you to list that using a different identifier, not a GTIN and so then you don't have to get a GS1 GTIN. The thing is, is that the people that are talking about this right now are talking about it on existing listings that already have a GTIN associated with it.
You can't apply for an exemption., If you've already associated a GTIN to that ASIN. Amazon won't retroactively grant you an exemption. If the products aren't listed and the product doesn't have a have a GTIN, then you can apply for an exemption, but there's no retroactively going back and being like JK, this doesn't really have a GTIN.
[00:04:43] Chris: Right.
[00:04:43] Leah: Pretend like that never happened. That's not how the process works and that's not how their system works. Like their system just won't even let them do that. So a lot of people are trying to get around this by just--
[00:04:54] Chris: It's a work around, right?
[00:04:55] Leah: But it's not a work around, cause it doesn't work.
[00:04:57] Chris: It's a would be workaround, I should say.
[00:04:59] Leah: Yeah.
[00:04:59] Chris: And that's I think why we've seen LinkedIn and other posts blowing up about, Hey, I've got a solution for this. This is kind of detail oriented stuff and there's no quick shortcut. I mean, from what I've observed, I know you're the expert on this, but from what I've seen in all the chatter, people are trying these things, they're not working. And then I saw people were like writing to the Jeff @ Amazon like, Hey, you guys are stopping me from fixing this. Now I can't sell, now I can't get this reinstated. Is there no solution at all? So, you know, runs the gamut of opening seller support cases to emails, to Amazon execs, to writing to Jeff, to executive seller relations.
[00:05:41] Leah: I think it's a combination of this is badly understood by a lot of sellers, and it's also badly understood by Amazon. So Amazon really hasn't given great processes for going through this.
And even the fact that they're just looking at the ownership information of the prefix doesn't make any sense because the ownership information in GS1 is at the company level. You're selling you're listing and selling your product at the brand level. So what they really should be looking at is the brand information, because lots of companies own more than one brand. But you still have to register within GS1 under your company name, which may not be the same as your brand names.
So the fact that that's how they're even looking at this information, doesn't make sense when they have a full integration with the GS1 database. But not even only that, I've also seen ASINs that are flagged that the company information does match the brand information and it still gets flagged because it just isn't being reviewed properly.
So I don't know what tools they've built to do this, but there are definitely bugs and they also clearly have not built out the SOP before they started enforcing this, because it seems like support don't actually know what to do when you send them the information to resolve it. Brand registry so far has been the only team that I have seen actually resolve this. Which is surprising, cause I don't usually say that about the brand registry team.
[00:06:58] Chris: No, but I could see how they would be more likely to understand it than other teams.
[00:07:02] Leah: No, and it makes sense that they would be the team to do it, but nowhere when you're told this, are you told to do it through brand registry?
[00:07:09] Chris: And you at conferences, for example, this year's prosper show, you did a presentation with GS1.
[00:07:16] Leah: Yeah, Michelle Covey.
[00:07:17] Chris: Right, and you've talked to them about this. Are there any other solutions out there that that could be proposed? That could be attempted?
[00:07:27] Leah: I think on GS1's part, they've already come to the table here. The fact that you can even buy individual UPCs now is a huge thing for Amazon sellers. Previously, you had to buy a prefix and that included a certain number of codes and it was potentially cost prohibitive for new sellers.
So I mean, GS1 are already working to make this easier for sellers. I think they have been trying to work with Amazon to create an SOP for sellers to better understand this. At this point, I think the ball is in Amazon court. GS1 has done what they can do, but they can't make Amazon systems work better.
So, they have the ability to add brand information to a UPC or a GTIN in their database. That information is there if you're filling it in, Amazon just isn't necessarily looking at that information. They're just looking at the ownership information, which then means you have to show proof of what the relationship between the company and the brand is.
[00:08:17] Chris: Well, inevitably you will get a mountain of questions from people, whether they hear this podcast or not, but anyone has questions on this. Leah's is the person to go to, make sure you ask for her, not me because her brain can somehow understand all of this source material. And I can only grasp chunks and pieces of it at a time.
I think it's just an interesting, and in some ways unnecessary bureaucracy and administrative headache that probably could have, and should have been addressed years ago. But as with all things Amazon. They go into it when they need to, when they have to, when they must.
[00:08:51] Leah: Right. And so I 100% agree that they should be checking the GS1 database to make sure that they do match because a lot of people don't understand that these prefixes are used for more than just UPCs or EINs, they're used across all different sorts of logistics within the supply chain and they're international so you want that information to match across the board. So what they are trying to do is the right way forward.
[00:09:19] Chris: Right.
[00:09:20] Leah: They just have never really figured out how to do it.
[00:09:23] Chris: Implementation.
[00:09:24] Leah: Right. Also the fact that like for years, they were suggesting that you use non GS1 resold UPCs on your listing doesn't really help the situation. Like they literally trained their support staff to direct people to resold codes prior to their policy change. So that does not help the situation.
[00:09:42] Chris: No way we're talking about resold barcodes on this episode.
[00:09:44] Leah: Yeah, no, it's already too long.
[00:09:46] Chris: We've touched on that before. Any questions about barcodes, UPCs, GS1, GTIN exemptions, Leah is the person to go to in summary. Not me. But thanks so much for taking people through this. I know it's kind of cumbersome, but it's important, necessary for people to understand it. And I'm sure we will revisit this topic again. So yeah, speak to you soon. Thank you.