Season 1, Episode 66

You’re Responsible for getting Compliance Info from your Suppliers

We’ve recently seen an uptick in sellers who’s manufacturer is unwilling to give compliance documentation when requested. In this episode Chris & Leah discuss the importance of cutting ties with suppliers who aren’t willing to hand over this documentation because if something goes wrong, you unfortunately will be the one held responsible.

Show Notes

Transcript

[00:00:07] Chris: Hey, everybody, welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions, our wonderful favorite podcast. I’m here with Leah McHugh, doing things at home casual today, but not a casual topic. This is about compliance and we’ve had a lot of requests from Amazon, right? For manufacturer letters. You work on this stuff all the time.

[00:00:26] Leah: Mm-hmm .

[00:00:26] Chris: And so you’ll do most of the talking, but just to set the stage for everyone. We’ve had some clients recently and some sellers that did not become clients who insisted on their way of viewing this problem. I suppose they came to us for help. They needed compliance assistance and suggestions and troubleshooting.

But they somehow tried to convince us, I guess you’d say that Amazon’s inappropriately asking for the manufacturer letter. Are there any instances where Amazon’s asking for a manufacturer letter where they shouldn’t for a compliance issue or is this just a giant misunderstanding on the seller side?

[00:01:00] Leah: I mean, ultimately if Amazon decides that they need a letter from your manufacturer, there’s not a whole lot you can do to convince them otherwise. We see that in terms of letters of authorizations to sell, in terms of licensing agreements, any number of reasons to do with authenticity, but we also see it more and more to do with things like compliance.

And certainly in highly regulated spaces of products, you should be able to get that information from your manufacturer or supplier a lot of times that information is actually publicly available information, which you can potentially find in the FDA database.

[00:01:33] Chris:
 Mm-hmm and you should be looking.

[00:01:35] Leah: Well, but if you’re purchasing these highly regulated products and your manufacturer or your supplier is unwilling to give you that compliance documentation, first of all, if they don’t have it, that’s a massive problem. Second of all. If they refuse to give it to you, you need to start questioning whether you should be working with that supplier or manufacturer at all, because a lot of these documents are legally required documents that you need to have and you are the seller of record.

So if there’s anything that goes wrong with those products, Amazon isn’t going to your manufacturer or your supplier, they’re coming to you.

[00:02:12] Chris: Maybe we should take a step back and focus on that piece because we have had a couple people contact us who said, well, my manufacturers queasy about supplying this or they are unwilling to, unable to, and maybe the seller is just afraid that they’ll have to undo so much stuff that they’ve done with that manufacturer, which we understand is a painful process and a difficult decision.

But. As you were saying Leah, why would your manufacturers say, oh, we don’t want to be named as the manufacturer of these products. We’re just gonna spend all our time arguing why you don’t need it from Amazon, which hasn’t made sense.

[00:02:48] Leah: Well, yeah, and again, I am specifically talking about highly regulated areas of products. I understand if your supplier maybe doesn’t wanna give their suppliers information because chances are, you could just cut them out as the middle man and go straight to the source. So I understand that, but I mean, I’m talking about– and we see this with resellers as well, not just brands where if you’re a supplement or you are a medical device or your electronics, anything that requires compliance documentation, Amazon isn’t. Looking at your account and going, oh, they’re just a reseller. I’ll go to the source to get that information. Like, they’re just asking anybody that sells that. So if you can’t get that information, sometimes one of the other sellers of that product will supply it and then you don’t have to worry about it. But you can’t rely on that. And again, if you’re selling highly regulated products, you should have that information anyway, in case anything goes wrong. Because once again, you are the seller of record for those products.

[00:03:42] Chris: And we see this across the board, right. You always are referred to as like, this is why they chased so many drop shippers off the platform, right? Some of them were violating the drop shipping policy. This is a kind of an unrelated example, but parallel, because they weren’t the seller of record on invoices and paperwork inside the packaging, which guess what creates headaches and complaints and reports of counterfeit and so on with Amazon, and that’s why they’re so against it.

[00:04:08] Leah: 
Well, and ultimately if the FDA comes to you because there’s an issue with your products, you can’t just be like, oh, I’m just reselling it. I don’t, I don’t know if this complies with FDA regulations, you’re selling it. They’re gonna hold you accountable as well as your manufacturer or distributor or whoever else was involved in that supply chain because they’re highly regulated products, and they’re highly regulated products for a reason. So again, if your supplier distributor is consumables unwilling to give you compliance documentation, Perhaps you should not be working with that supplier.

[00:04:37] Chris:
 Right. And we can have a separate episode perhaps about how you vet suppliers, we we’ve touched on that before. We will probably need to go back to it. That’s a bigger discussion in terms of how do you make sure that this is the right manufacturer for you which thankfully is a constant conversation all over the Amazon community in the space, but for today’s purposes, I mean, consider also that Amazon’s under the gun.

They’re under public scrutiny for potential liability, for items that are sold on the site. As of now, they’ve been able to get most of the way through that issue by saying we’re just a marketplace, we’re just a platform but we’ve seen some signs in the courts that, that might be changing. The tide might be turning a little bit.

[00:05:17] Leah: Well, and if you look at the CPSCs website for recalls, every other recall is either sold on Amazon or sold by Amazon. So yes, they are under a lot of scrutiny for the quality and the safety of the products being sold in the marketplace because turns out some of them aren’t that safe.

[00:05:33] Chris: Right. Huge indicator. Whenever you’re checking federal agency sites, I mean, the FDA is definitely keeping an eye on this stuff. Amazon knows that.

[00:05:42] Leah: 
Well, and you see more and more in warning letters that the FDA sends to brands and manufacturers that they specifically cite information right on amazon.com. If they send a warning to somebody about their product, they don’t cite information on the product or information on that person’s website. They’re also looking at Amazon to see, well, you made this marketing claim on amazon.com and that’s not allowed for FDA regulations. You’re seeing that more and more in FDA warning letters and Amazon of course is aware of this.

[00:06:07] Chris: 
The other thing that’s big here is that, some sellers are kind of blaming someone else. They don’t understand that the buck stops with them. And as Leah was saying, they don’t suspend the manufacturer’s account, they suspend yours. Right? This can impact brand registry, sometimes we’ve had people approach us saying, well, we botched the whole manufacturing process. We got the wrong manufacturer, we can’t get compliance documents. Can I just have somebody else sell my brand until I sort this out as if brand registry can be handed around like a football and it just doesn’t work that, I mean, you know this from countless hours every day on this, but a lot of people don’t understand that brand registry doesn’t work that way.

[00:06:46] Leah: Well, Amazon doesn’t work that way. This idea of like, well, I didn’t make the product or I didn’t make the product detail page. That doesn’t fly. If you’re selling on the product detail page, you’re responsible for all of the information on there, if you’re selling a product, you are responsible for the safety and compliance of that product. And again, I think that the most concerning part to me isn’t necessarily that sellers don’t want to give that information to Amazon because I do understand not wanting to give other information to Amazon, which, Unfortunately you just have to get over, but I think what’s more concerning to me is that we’re seeing a lot of sellers whose suppliers are unwilling to give them the legal compliance information.

And again, does that mean they just don’t have it or do they just not want to get involved? And either way as a seller of record, you need access to that information. if your manufacturer isn’t willing to give you a letter of guarantee after they had a product recall. Then again, maybe you should not be sourcing from that particular supplier.

[00:07:45] Chris: 
Right. And we understand that it’s unnerving to think that you’re working with somebody who’s something other than what they told you, but the FTC, the FDA, whoever it is when they go to Amazon, they’ll send them links to live listings. What are they focused on? The storefront, the seller, the FTC doesn’t contact you and say, oh, by the way, we saw your stuff on Amazon. Can you show us?

[00:08:09] Leah: Who did you get this from so would you go after them?

[00:08:12] Chris: No, they chase Amazon, right? That’s one stop shopping for them. I mean, they’re stressed and few resources to devote to it. Amazon’s an easy place for them to go, to try to figure out what you’re doing and if it’s safe or compliant.

[00:08:24] Leah: Yeah, also, don’t assume that your supplier, don’t rely on them for compliance information. You need to look that up as well. Because once again, we’ve worked with many clients suppliers who give us very incorrect information about what is legally required for specific products. So you, again, need to be doing your own research to figure out what exactly your product needs to be able to meet in order to be legally allowed to be sold.

[00:08:53] Chris: And I hasten to add that this seems to be a recent trend. Hopefully it’s a blip. For whatever reason, we’ve been hearing from a lot of these, I mean, compliance, there’s an ebb and a flow. Sometimes Amazon focuses on it. Sometimes they rotate out and they’re not so focused on it. Hopefully this is just temporary, but if you’re out there hearing this.

And warning bells are going off or you’re seeing red flags in your future, deal with it now, instead of when amazon’s chasing you all over creation, sending you increasingly murky messages that you spend half a day trying to decipher.

[00:09:26] Leah:
 Don’t just think I’ve been selling this for a year without a problem so it should be fine going forward.

[00:09:31] Chris: That, or don’t just point out or actually as a favor to me, don’t send us links to all these other people who are doing things in crazy, sloppy ways, because Amazon really doesn’t care.

[00:09:42] Leah: 
We’re also very much aware of the fact that everybody’s doing things wrong.

[00:09:46] Chris: 
Yeah. Amazon isn’t a everybody’s doing it, so it must be okay type of place right now.

[00:09:51] Leah: And neither is the FDA or the FTC.

[00:09:53] Chris:
 We know that enforcement’s inconsistent. I mean, we’re kind of broken record on this podcast and in my articles on the site, but bottom line, we know that you can always find examples at any given hour, any given moment of crazy things on Amazon. It doesn’t justify anything you might be doing that won’t be considered compliant. So. Thank you Leah, for sharing your wealth of knowledge on this topic today. We know this is intricate complex stuff. If you have any questions about it, let us know. And, thanks again for listening to Seller Performance Solutions.

Hosts & Guests

Chris McCabe

Leah McHugh

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