Did anyone get reinstated who did not submit a POA yet?
My account just got reinstated! Thanks to all for your care and support as well as great information from POA of Mecury and Book_folio.
Wish all will past this suspension!
Great news! I sent my POA yesterday but no word yet…
You might get back tomorrow. I submitted the second POA on Dec 10, and got reinstated today Dec 12.
I was reinstated a few days ago. I had some listings that were deactivated. Others, from the same publisher, weren’t. Very strange.
Ari Levy from CNBC wrote the following article that sheds some more light on what happened. Appears I’m wrong about it being a publisher sting. “In a statement after the story was first published, an Amazon spokesperson acknowledged that the company was behind the sting.”
"Amazon upended the book industry more than two decades ago by bringing sales onto the web. Now, during the heart of the holiday shopping season, the company is wreaking havoc on used booksellers who have come to rely on Amazon for customers.
In the past two weeks, Amazon has suspended at least 20 used book merchants for allegedly selling one or more counterfeit textbooks. They all received the same generic email from Amazon informing them that their account had been “temporarily deactivated” and reminding them that “the sale of counterfeit products on Amazon is strictly prohibited.”
Booksellers are among the millions of Amazon’s third-party sellers, a segment that’s now responsible for over half of the company’s e-commerce volume. The fees Amazon charges those sellers for shipping, fulfillment and other services accounted for over $10 billion of revenue in the third quarter, or 18 percent of Amazon’s total sales.
The crackdown on textbook sellers stands out at a time when Amazon is dramatically stepping up its broader anti-counterfeiting efforts, suspending third-party sellers across all its popular categories. Unlike most suspensions, which tend to occur after complaints from consumers or from brand owners who are monitoring the site for counterfeits, these booksellers got caught up in what appears to be a coordinated sting operation.
The mysterious Clara Dufour
According to three sellers who spoke to CNBC, as well as numerous messages on public forums, many of the supposedly counterfeit books had been sent to the same person and address.
When these sellers got the email from Amazon notifying them that their accounts had been suspended, they checked their records and found that the book had been sent to Clara Dufour at 303 S. River Street in Seattle.
If Dufour really exists, she doesn’t seem to work or live at that address, which is home to a 75,000 square foot commercial office space called OpenSquare. A representative at the OpenSquare location said he’d never heard of Dufour, knew nothing of any books arriving there and suggested checking with the “Amazon fulfillment center across the street.”
An administrator at the nearby Amazon warehouse said it was company policy not to disclose the name of any employees at the facility.
Amazon declined to comment on the specifics of this story, but said in a statement that it removes “suspected counterfeit items as we become aware of them, and we permanently remove bad actors from selling on Amazon.”
Meanwhile, the booksellers have been busy filling out appeals for reinstatement and trying to get someone at Amazon to listen. Several of them have had their accounts reactivated this week, but without explanation.
At the same time, they’re trying to figure out who’s behind Clara Dufour, and have congregated on an Amazon Sellers Forum that’s accumulated 376 comments since the first seller posted about the issue on Nov. 30.
To be sure, the textbook industry has been hurt by counterfeiting. Textbooks in the U.S. generate $10 billion to $12 billion a year for the publishers. The industry already has to contend with the used and rental book markets, which drag down sales of new books. Publishers say the increase in counterfeits is making the economic model that much harder — in February 2017, publisher Cengage attributed a 17 percent decline sales decline in its learning division in part to “a significant increase in the availability of counterfeit print books in the markets.”
As a result, textbook publishers are aggressively pursuing counterfeiters in many venues. In August, for instance, a consortium of the top five publishers called EPEG (the Educational Publishers Enforcement Group) was awarded $34 million in a trademark and copyright infringement suit against a group of Ohio-based companies.
But even people close to the publishers aren’t able to explain exactly what’s happening on Amazon.
Matt Oppenheim, an attorney at Oppenheim + Zebrak, represents EPEG and has been working on behalf of the book industry for almost 10 years to stamp out counterfeits through suing problem sellers and through the website stopcounterfeittextbooks.com.
Oppenheim, who’s based in Washington, D.C., has teamed up with Amazon in recent years to try to get fakes off the site. He said this is the first time he’s heard the name Clara Dufour or anything about the River Street address in Seattle.
But Oppenheim told CNBC that the publishers have given Amazon the flexibility to take the action it deems appropriate.
“The publishers are actively attempting to identify and address counterfeit sellers on Amazon and other marketplaces,” he said. “They’re doing that both on their own and are encouraging Amazon to take affirmative and aggressive steps to monitor its marketplace.”
Who’s getting suspended
Amazon’s counterfeit quandary dates back several years to when the company opened its marketplace doors to Chinese sellers. It’s gotten so bad that in October, the American Apparel & Footwear Association recommended that certain Amazon sites across the globe be added to the U.S. government’s annual “Notorious Markets” list, which identifies commerce sites and companies that facilitate the sale of counterfeit goods. Amazon reiterated at the time that it has “zero tolerance” for counterfeit sales and has developed technology to try to identify abusive sellers and storefronts.
But as Amazon cracks down on the problem, some small sellers are being caught as collateral damage.
For instance, one textbook seller swept up in the effort was Books4Cause, a small company in Skokie, Illinois, that collects donated books and provides them in bulk, primarily to libraries and schools in Africa and underserved populations around Chicago.
Yosef Lifchitz, who founded Books4Cause in 2007, said that of the 20,000 to 40,000 books his business acquires every year, about 10 percent get sold on Amazon to fund the operation of storing books and shipping to Africa. Lifchitz said the revenue he brings in pays for his budget, which amounts to $200,000 to $250,000 a year, and leaves just enough income for him to take care of his five kids.
On Nov. 30, Lifchitz received the same email as the other booksellers, telling him his “Amazon Seller account has been temporarily deactivated,” his “listings have been removed” and funds will be held in his account “while we work with you to address the following issue.”
Amazon wrote that it has “concerns about the authenticity of the item(s) listed at the end of this email,” and provided an identification code at the bottom. The code pointed to a college physics textbook published by a Cengage imprint over a decade ago. Lifchitz said he picked up the item in a book drive at Penn State University, sold it for $8 on Amazon and shipped it to Clara Dufour.
“To think I would risk my whole business on copyright[ed] books that we sold for $8 is preposterous,” he said.
Lifchitz said he does a thorough review of books before selling them, and he estimated that perhaps one in every 10,000 books he puts on the market is counterfeit and slips through the cracks.
“People that are doing counterfeits are doing that at a large scale with big operations,” he said. “They’ll be creating multiple Amazon accounts and doing other shady stuff, which we’re not.”
Amazon reinstated Lifchitz on Tuesday, soon after CNBC reached out to the company about his case. He lost 11 days of sales and was given no apology or guidance for the future. His reinstatement came after multiple Amazon representatives told him by phone that his case was being passed along to the seller performance team and to the group that handles fraud detection.
Another seller, who asked not to be named, sells about 2,000 items on Amazon, including household goods, toys and some books that she buys from Goodwill and thrift stores.
In September, she sent a book to Clara Dufour in Seattle. About 40 days later, there was a return request because the customer indicated that she “bought it by mistake,” the seller said. Then on Nov. 30, she got the same email that Lifchitz and others received, suspending her account. Here’s how it starts:
In the section of the email telling her how to get reactivated, the first suggestion is to send in copies of invoices or receipts from suppliers over the last 365 days related to the item in question. The book she sold was a criminology textbook published by Pearson that she bought at Goodwill. Amazon often doesn’t honor receipts from Goodwill as legitimate invoices, so she wasn’t certain how to satisfy Amazon’s demands.
The seller was reinstated on Wednesday after submitting appeals and going 12 days without making a sale.
Behind the scenes, the Amazon seller performance team is not set up to give much attention to these types of sellers. It’s up to the merchants to submit their appeals to a single email address — [redacted email] — within 17 days. If Amazon doesn’t receive the requested information “or after two appeals are unsuccessful (whichever comes sooner), your account will be permanently deactivated,” Amazon says.
Additionally, Amazon tells sellers it may withhold payments and destroy any inventory related to the “inauthentic” complaints that are held in Amazon’s fulfillment centers.
Paul Rafelson, an attorney who specializes in tax and intellectual property issues on Amazon, said that used booksellers are facing the same challenge as merchants in every major category. Amazon is supporting big brands in helping to keep their listings clean, and in the process some honest sellers are getting wiped out.
“Amazon suspends first and asks questions later,” he said. “They’re basically advocating for the position that we can’t sell stuff anymore.”
Two existing listings (book) now require approval. What?
Do you hear anything from Amazon today yet?
That’s great that it’s getting some coverage.
If it was an Amazon sting, I’m now left with even more questions
Why the return requests?
Why the return requests out of the return window?
My book was published in 2003, why are they going after 15 year old textbooks? That wouldn’t even be the publishers priority.
Did Amazon order 20k books to this address and return the 19,980 authentic ones?
I think I would have prefered if this was just a scammer, or a competition sting.
I want to know what’s going on here because I don’t want to spend thousands of hours and thousands of dollars investing in this marketplace if this is going to happen again.
Good luck with that I was suspended in October 2015 for a counterfeit DVD (alledged) that the customer did not complain about nor did the rights owner complain about… it just came out of the blue…still dont understand what or why it happened…Jamie, a forum moderator back then, was very empathetic and helpful in getting me reinstated but i never really did understand what generated the suspension although im pretty sure ebay and goodwill receipts wouldnt have cut it for me.
plan accordingly…you can be suspended for anything or nothing and new landmines pop up every day.
My employer got a policy violation around the same time frame (about 10 days ago). not suspended, but blocked from selling an item because a customer complained they sold “used as new” because a sink arrived broken. They used up their appeals - and even using POA similar to what have worked for other sellers… We’ll probably appeal to @jeff in a few weeks.
Seems like it is the typical year end rush by SP to meet some quota of account and item suspensions. They have metrics also, and the company that runs SP has to show Amazon they are “doing something” to justify the 10 cents a case they get.
Amazon took ownership of it, as updated in the article.
What I don’t understand is that if these sellers were found guilty of selling counterfeits and Amazon takes this matter so seriously by suspending them, why were they reinstated?
Seems to me the right thing to do would be to pick up the phone and call the seller and talk with them about the problem instead of this.
I don’t think these tactics promote and build trust with 3rd party sellers. Frankly, it scares people off.
Reinstated last night.
I see your case and I am so sorry for that, but the reason of my writing you is to tell you believe in what you are doing. My Account has been Suspended about 7 months for inauthentic complaints from DVD selling, and I get My Account back.
I wish you the same but sooner as it possible.
Thank you so much for posting this article, Wow, trying to wrap my mind around this.
In your edited post ? Or do I have to search the article ?
Congratulation to you !
So Amazon bought a bunch of books turned around and tried to return them to the sellers outside their own return window, could not do so in a lot of instances, suspends a bunch of people randomly and then turns around and reinstates everybody, many with Goodwill and eBay receipts?
great plan and implementation…
Broken chain of custody = counterfeit.
That is from supply chain management 101.
This whole experience and the way Amazon has handled it is so bizarre. To me there is something fishy about it.
I get that Amazon might want to set up a sting–If so this sting started in 2017, my first order to Maria Diaz. That order was sent to a PO Box and I received an email that they picked it up late and the book is being returned to me. That order actually had a different number and I tracked it down to a professor working at Loyola Marymount. Perhaps they had outsourced the research to her.
Why would Amazon reinstate us all basically in the same day without any explanation? If we did in fact sell counterfeit books shouldn’t someone reach out to us or send us best practices on avoiding counterfeit books. They can see from my track record and performance that I’ve never had a counterfeit complaint. Why would the kick me off for one book that was selling for $8. Give me a call find out what is going on. Let us know that the book was bought by Amazon. Educate us to look out for this. It seems like they weren’t really going after the real issue here. It’s a big company so perhaps they are just inefficient and poorly managed this.
I really believe that the CNBC article prompted PR and some of the higher ups to look into this and realize that it was a poorly executed sting and would only make them look bad. From their response it seems they are a bit defensive. We can’t sue Amazon, but I’m hoping for some answers and at least an apology on how this was handled.