Starting June 27, 2023, high-volume third-party sellers must provide Amazon with new verification documentation — even if they did so recently. Amazon went on to clarify that:
To see if you have any outstanding requests for verification, check your Account Health dashboard. If any information is required, follow the instructions provided. You’ll also receive an email notification if you’re still required to take any action. If you do not provide the required information within 10 days of this notification, disbursements for your Amazon selling account will be put on hold starting July 7. [emphasis added]–SellerCentral: “If you have outstanding verification requirements to comply with INFORM, provide now” by News_Amazon
The new policy is a requirement under the INFORM Consumers Act. This law is designed to help protect businesses and consumers from counterfeiters and other bad-faith marketplace sellers. Besides Amazon, other large marketplaces like Target and eBay will also need to comply with the act.
Under INFORM, certain Amazon sellers will need to provide Amazon with up-to-date documentation including government IDs, tax IDs, bank account information, and contact information.
Here’s how the new seller re-verification process could affect you and your business, and how to stay on top of the changes so you don’t miss a single sale.
The New Amazon Seller Verification Process
- What Is the INFORM Consumers Act?
- A Timeline of Amazon’s Implementation of the Law
- What Does Amazon Seller Verification Require? The FAQs
- What Is the Likely Impact of the New Law on Amazon Sellers?
What Is the INFORM Consumers Act?
The INFORM Consumers Act — also known as the “Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act,” if you’ve got enough time on your hands to say it — is a bill that was passed in November 2022 and takes effect on June 27, 2023.
The bill requires online marketplaces to collect — and, in some cases, publish — certain identifying information about their high-volume third-party sellers. For the purposes of the law, a high-volume seller is any business that generates $5,000 in revenue and over 200 transactions in a given 12-month period.
About INFORM Requirements
Under INFORM, sellers need to provide their bank account numbers, government-issued ID, tax ID numbers, and contact information to the marketplaces they sell on. Marketplaces are responsible for verifying this information and certifying any changes annually.
Marketplaces will also need to display some sellers’ contact information in their product listings and offer consumers various ways to report questionable marketplace activity.
The act authorizes the FTC to fine marketplaces $46,517 per violation — i.e., for each and every seller that isn’t properly verified. The law also gives state attorneys the authority to bring civil actions against marketplaces that don’t comply.
The stated purpose of the INFORM Act is to go after organized retail crime practices like counterfeiting and the sale of stolen goods. Brick-and-mortar stores say shoplifting is on the rise, with the rapid expansion of online marketplaces making it easier for criminals to resell stolen goods. They blame theft for the vast majority of inventory shrink, though they don’t necessarily have the data to prove it.
Notably, Amazon opposed early versions of the bill, on the grounds that “the real purpose of these measures is to favor large brick-and-mortar retailers at the expense of small businesses that sell online,” and that “they hurt honest sellers and do nothing to prevent fraud and abuse.”
A Timeline of Amazon’s Implementation of the Law
The INFORM Act takes effect on June 27, 2023. At this point, all sellers should prepare to submit the necessary documentation to Amazon if they haven’t already.
According to EcomCrew, on May 10, 2023, Amazon informed sellers that it would be required to “collect, verify, and disclose information about their businesses.”
As early as May 17, Amazon sent emails to some sellers warning them that their accounts had been slated for possible deactivation if they didn’t comply with the new policy right away, with many Reddit users reporting receiving these emails around May 25.
Also around this time, some sellers who had already successfully re-verified have reported receiving emails asking them to go through the process again. On May 26, Amazon apologized on Twitter for accidentally emailing some US sellers and asking them to submit a new Tax Questionnaire, even if they had already filled one out.
Officially, third-party sellers have 10 days to comply with the verification process as soon as it goes into effect. But Amazon emails that went out in May gave sellers just two weeks or less from the time of receipt to re-verify.
It seems reasonable to suspect that, come late June or early July, thousands of sellers’ accounts could be threatened with deactivation. Sellers should re-verify or get their documents in order as soon as possible, and expect some degree of at least minor chaos with Amazon on or around those dates.
What Does Amazon Seller Verification Require? The FAQs
What Do Sellers Need to Do to Get Re-Verified?
To complete the seller re-verification process, sellers who fit the INFORM Act’s definition of “high-volume” may need to provide Amazon with some or all of the following documentation:
- Identity or Business Name
- Government ID
- Business Address
- Bank Account Information
- Tax Identification Number
- Email Address
- Business Phone Number
Some sellers may also need to complete a video interview with Amazon. Others may be contacted via email with further instructions and deadlines for verifying additional information (beware scams!)
For instructions on submitting documentation, sellers should review any emails they received from Amazon or consult Seller Central for the latest details.
Policies around the new re-verification process seem to be changing quickly — EcomCrew reports that, although Amazon previously instructed sellers to check their verification status in Seller Central, no such option was available within the seller portal at the time of reporting.
How Has This Changed from Prior Amazon Seller Identity Verification (SIV) Requirements?
Before the INFORM Act, seller identity verification requirements were a bit less stringent. Amazon’s Seller Identity Verification (SIV) Guide for Beginners, last updated in August 2020, lists only the following required documents:
- Business Owner’s Valid National/Resident ID
- A Bank/Credit Card Statement, Utility Bill, or a Business Trade License
- A Business Email Address or Amazon Customer Account
- An Active Phone Number
By 2022, Amazon was also requiring a Federal Tax ID and a State Tax ID for US sellers. A working credit card has also always been a requirement.
The main difference in the new process is the inclusion of bank account and tax information, but there’s reason to suspect there may be a bit more to it than that. The new documents may not seem like much, but everything needs to match.
Any tiny detail, like a change of address or small discrepancy with a middle initial, could get your account suspended for as long as Amazon takes to resolve the issue. And with thousands of accounts up for verification in the coming weeks, there’s no guarantee this will be quick.
Guidelines and Tips for Successfully Completing the Re-verification Process
The best advice we have for sellers is to get ready now. Make sure all your documentation is in order immediately, even if you think you’re already verified or re-verified, or if Amazon hasn’t reached out to you.
It’s also a good idea to log into your Amazon Seller account to see if you have a message there. You may have already received a re-verification request and missed it.
If Amazon has reached out, submit your documents right away to avoid potential account suspension.
Consider also putting some organizational practices in place to internally re-verify your documentation annually. In other words, have a standard procedure for making sure all your paperwork is in order regularly, before Amazon comes to you.
What Is the Likely Impact of the New Law on Amazon Sellers?
The INFORM Consumers Act could have wide-reaching impacts on Amazon Sellers, especially on growing e-commerce businesses that see over $20,000 in revenue. Thousands of sellers will need to re-verify their information with little time to prepare. Many business owners could also face privacy concerns.
Here are some of the ways the law could impact you.
What Challenges May Sellers Face During the Re-Verification Process?
The biggest challenge most sellers will face with re-verification is making sure they have all the right documents, and that those documents match.
Any discrepancy in documentation during the re-verification process could temporarily suspend your account.
Here are some examples of discrepancies that could impact your account:
- The person who set up your business bank account is no longer with your company, but the account is under their name
- You’ve changed addresses, but some of your documents show the old address
- Only some of your documents show your middle name or married name
- You’ve made a gender transition, and not all your documents show the same name or sex
In any case, verification could be rejected until you update your information. You must include your bank account, get a new driver’s license, or potentially go through any number of long, involved bureaucratic processes to get your documentation in order.
If you live in another country but do business on Amazon USA, you could be looking at weeks or months of red tape. If you’re undocumented, trying to update your ID or banking information could put your safety and status at risk.
In general, verification and re-verification requirements disproportionately impact the undocumented population, the elderly, and communities of color, because they’re statistically less likely to have documents like government-issued photo IDs.
There are also other barriers, like costs associated with updating documentation, and making sure all images are formatted correctly and have the right resolution. These problems impact all sellers, but especially people with unequal access to technology, or who have certain disabilities.
Another challenge of re-verification can be figuring out why you got rejected. For example, some sellers get rejected simply because they send only the first few pages of a document like a utility bill when Amazon requires sellers to submit every page of a given document.
Amazon doesn’t always clarify the reason for rejection. Some sellers have complained of confusing, glitchy emails. Others mention getting cut off after waiting to speak with Amazon reps.
What Happens to Sellers Who Can’t Re-verify in Time?
Sellers who aren’t able to complete the re-verification process in time will have their seller accounts suspended. They won’t be able to make any further sales until they correctly update their information.
While suspended, sellers can’t obtain any new seller certifications. They also won’t be able to access funds from their Amazon Seller accounts.
Yoni Mazor, a cofounder of the Amazon seller auditing and reimbursements software company GETIDA, says the law won’t negatively impact honest, legally-operating sellers.
Could the INFORM Act Have Other Implications for High-Volume Sellers?
Beyond re-verification hurdles, the INFORM Act could have major consequences for sellers on Amazon and other marketplaces.
In 2021, a long list of organizations — including the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and U.S. Black Chambers, among others — opposed the original bill for three main reasons:
- The requirement for marketplaces to post personal and contact information on their listings would violate seller privacy.
- The requirement of government-issued ID would limit access to marketplaces, similar to the way voter ID laws may add an extra layer to some Americans voting.
- The threshold for “high-volume” sellers was too low.
In other words, the act may make it harder for minority sellers to get on and stay on the platform, affect owners of even very small businesses, and — perhaps most alarmingly — expose business owners’ personal information to the public in ways that could make them vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, or even violence.
Sellers who do business out of their homes may be able to get around the requirement by getting a P.O. Box or UPS business mailbox, and there may be some exceptions around what information gets published. The current version of the bill, now written into law, specifies that only businesses totaling $20,000 or more in annual revenue need to publish their name and address on their listings.
Either way, it seems inevitable that the bill will disproportionately impose logistical and financial burdens on certain smaller businesses.
On the upside, the bill may make it easier for Amazon and law enforcement to track stolen goods and pursue counterfeiters. This could eliminate some unworthy and aggressive competition.
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