Fake products aren’t a new headache for Amazon, but now the tech retailer is shifting its strategy on how to deal with them. In a blog Thursday, Amazon announced it will allow individual brands to directly remove counterfeit products themselves.
The move is part of what Amazon is calling “Project Zero.” Under the program, Amazon plans to use machine learning, product serialization, and a self-service removal tool to help protect brands and consumers from scammers. In short, brands give Amazon logos, trademarks, and other types of data. That then gets scanned against the 5 billion product updates Amazon receives each day. On top of that, Amazon will let brands assign a unique code for each product, that can then be printed onto a sticker or packaging. That way, when products are ordered, Amazon can easily scan an item when it enters a warehouse and verify if it’s authentic.
But the game changer here is Amazon is putting the power to remove fake product listings directly into the hands of brands themselves. Previously, a company had to report fake listings and wait for Amazon’s internal team to look into the products in question and decide whether to take them down. But the self-service tool will let brands do that themselves, bypassing the need to report dubious listings to Amazon at all.
Overall, Amazon taking steps to crack down on fake products is a good thing. But the self-service tool is potentially worrisome, as it removes a layer of oversight that could lead to price-fixing and brands policing out legitimate resellers. According to the Project Zero FAQ site, Amazon is “providing brands with an unprecedented level of responsibility, and [is] willing to do so because [it] believe[s] that the combined strengths of Amazon and brands can drive counterfeits to zero.” But so far details are somewhat thin as to what protections Amazon plans to implement to make sure brands don’t abuse these tools to stamp out legitimate competition. The FAQ references a “number of processes” to promote accuracy, training, and “ongoing monitoring” from Amazon.
Right now Project Zero is an invite-only program, and Amazon currently has about 15 brands enrolled.