So I may know a thing or two about Amazon, but me and the law have no relations. That’s why I was happy to get insight from Aaron Kelly, Founder and Senior Partner at Kelly / Warner Law.
As a seasoned, top-rated internet marketing focused attorney, Aaron prides himself on assisting entrepreneurs market better & keeping it all legal.
Find out more about Aaron at www.kellywarnerlaw.com and enjoy the following actionable insight into leveraging the law, selling online, and marketing!
The e-commerce private label industry is exploding — in a good way! Experts predict that by 2020, online shopping will be a $523-billion business, in the U.S. alone. And guess what? A giant chunk of that $523 is coming from private label entrepreneurs who are molding multi-million-dollar companies by leveraging Amazon’s FBA program and other third-party-selling, e-commerce platforms.
Yes, my friends, there is money to be made! The time has come to dip your toe in the private label pond. So, let’s take a few minutes to chat about some “legal hacks” associated with the niche.
Someone Left A Bad Review. Now What?
A big headache for online sellers is bad reviews. Sometimes they come from competitors, other times from legitimate customers — of both the sane and “implacable” variety. So, the question is: Can you get a bad review deleted? Sometimes. Let’s review a few scenarios.
Competitor Posts Fake, Negative Review On Your Product Page
Sure, free speech is free speech; in the U.S., censuring opinions is unlawful. However, purposefully and publically lying about person, product or business, to the point of harm, IS against the law. If you catch a competitor doing this, there is a solid chance you can a) win a lawsuit and b) get the post removed. Click here to read more about appropriate actions if you suspect a competitor is dabbling in some subversive black-hat marketing.
Legitimate Customer, With A Gripe, Posts A Bad Review On Your Product Page
Yikes! Someone posted a scathing review on a listing and it has decimated sales. Help!
First thing to do is breathe. This problem has been overcome by thousands of people; you, too, will get through this.
Now, consider the problem post. Ask yourself: Is it true? If yes, respond politely and publicly to the complainer. Consumers love to see customer service. Often, a polite, genuinely concerned response to the negative post can completely cancel out a scathing rant. So long as you confront the problem and offer solutions, all is forgiven in the eyes of many consumers. After all, nobody is perfect and the majority of people on this planet understand that mistakes happen. It’s how the mistake is handled that matters.
If, however, the post in question isn’t true, several scenarios may apply. Counterfeiters, who are leaching off your listing, may be to blame. If so, there are ways to alert Amazon of a possible fraudster, which can result in their account’s termination and deletion of related elements, including misplaced reviews — ultimately solving your problem. Also, if a consumer leaves a review that contains false statements of fact, you may be able to get a court order and have it removed — depending, of course, on the details.
Someone Hijacked A Listing. Options?
Another online selling headache? Listing hijackers who run rampant on open catalog platforms, like Amazon. (If you’ve never heard of “product listing hijackers,” bookmark this page, quickly jump here for an overview, then come back.)
You know the culprits; pirating counterfeiters who prey on listings. At best, they’re a nuisance; at worst, they can kill a legitimate listing — and associated profits — by disseminating inferior-quality products. So, it’s important to strike back hard and quick.
So, how does one go about shaking a hijacker?
- Contact the culprit. Be polite. Who knows, it could all be one big misunderstanding. And believe it or not, this is often the case. Someone new to the niche clicks the wrong button and presto, they’ve inadvertently taken over another listing. In such cases, the newbie usually apologizes profusely and everything goes back to normal. No harm, no foul — and most importantly, no headaches or solution investments.
- If you contact the culprit to no avail, it may be time to enlist a lawyer to send a strongly worded letter on your behalf. Typically, the buck stops here and hijackers jump off. After all, they’d rather leach off people who aren’t lawyered up. But believe it or not, the cost of getting a professional letter is probably a lot less than you may assume.
- Sometimes, the best life hack is good old fashioned investigating. And that’s certainly true in the online private label game. As simple as it may sound, the best — albeit not foolproof — way to avoid a hijacking / counterfeiting tangle is by vetting your supply chain. And when we say “vetting” we mean VET-TING! Spend 100% more time on the task then you anticipated. Quadruple check everything. Get references and follow up with them.
Avoid FTC Fines By Getting A Marketing Audit
Marketing mistakes can cost a bundle. Attorneys General and the Federal Trade Commission have the authority to sue and fine parties that engage in “unfair and deceptive marketing.”
So, what constitutes unfair and deceptive marketing, you ask? The list is long and detail-dependent; what’s A-OK for one marketing campaign may be a NO-NO in another. That said, here are some ballpark guidelines:
- Don’t Lie. Basically, don’t try to be tricky with consumers. Regarding marketing copy, don’t try to trick them with fancy language and lies of omission; don’t wizard statistics and studies out of thin air.
- Material relationships and partnerships must be disclosed to potential buyers before the payment stage of a transaction. Additionally, brands must disclose marketing elements that affect the overall perception of a promotional piece.
- Say No To Fake News Sites. Once upon an unregulated time, fake news sites were all the rage. Now? Not so much. The FTC thinks they’re “unfair and deceptive,” plus, fake news sites often come with intellectual property baggage.
- Don’t exaggerate findings. Weight loss product marketers often get trapped in embellished-claims quick sand. And it’s little wonder; it’s an exceptionally competitive niche! So, marketers may sometimes fins themselves highlighting an atypical result as if it’s the norm — or drawing false, but great sounding, conclusions based on questionable scientific studies. Avoid this at all costs. The FTC hates it and dolls out hefty fines to those who dare do it.
If there were ever a profitable opportunity, it’s the online private label space. Experts predict the niche will be generating revenues in the multi-billions by 2020. Last year, Amazon FBA sellers, alone, shipped over 1 billion items to people in 185 countries!
Profitable private label operations safeguard their operations with a rock solid defense. Hopefully you can use the above tips to tighten up your ship and react more effectively in the face of a business threat.