Imitation may be the best form of flattery, but for Amazon sellers, imitation means your Buy Box has been hijacked and you’re losing sales. How do hijackers do this? By selling a counterfeit, similar version, or even your real product. This is particularly a problem for a private label seller who puts all the work into creating a brand and product identify so as to “own” the Buy Box, only to have a cheater take it away by copying the listing.

Owning the Buy Box is important. Amazon automatically designates one default seller of a product. When someone clicks “Add to Cart,” the default seller—the one that “owns” the Buy Box—gets the sale, unless the buyer specifically selects a different seller of the identical product. In most cases, buyers have no reason to do this.

A typical hijack is when a seller jumps onto your listing and sells the same product, or an inferior replica, usually at a slightly lower price. Ripping off your content is bad enough, but the rip-off is even more damaging than lost sales. If the hijacker is selling an inferior product with your branding, it’s likely the private label product you put all the effort into developing is going to receive poor customer reviews, damaging your reputation and deterring potential future customers from making purchases.

Here are some proactive steps you can take to prevent getting hijacked, as well as what you can do if you discover that, all these efforts notwithstanding, someone still manages to hijack your listing.

Steps to Deter Hijackers

1. Vigilance is the First Line of Defense

Check your Seller Central dashboard regularly to see if anyone else is selling your private label product. Also look for any sudden drops in sales that further research may uncover a hijacker undercutting your pricing.

2. Register Your Brand

Registering your brand with Amazon not only helps protect you against hijackers, it makes it easier for you to manage and list your products. Just one example is you can list a product by alternative characteristics besides UPC or EAN. In order to register, you’ll need to make sure you fulfill the list of requirements. That might seem like an added cost and/or hassle, but is well worth it not only to qualify for the Amazon registry but as an alternate channel to promote your brand and fend off hijackers.

3. Sell Outside of Amazon

Sites such as Shopify and Square Space make it relatively easy to set up your own branded e-commerce site separate from Amazon. The huge advantage of running your own store is you are more in control of your own fate. You aren’t reliant on Amazon’s rules and restriction, you can interact with customers directly and, best of all, avoid hijackers. And you can still provide Amazon fulfillment or direct customers to your Amazon product page.

4. Brand Your Brand

Cowboys branded cattle to prevent rustlers from passing off stolen livestock as their own. You need to do the same thing. No need to singe anything, however. Just make sure you put product photos on your Amazon listing page that clearly display your brand name on the product and the packaging. You are less likely to get hijacked as counterfeiters won’t want to go to the trouble (or the legal implications) of copying your branding. And, if they do copy your listing verbiage without the branding photos, you have recourse to demonstrate they are not selling your product because it lacks your branding.

Oh, No I’ve Been Hijacked

Despite your best efforts to avoid hijacking (or that you’re reading this article for the first time because you’ve been hijacked), it still happens. How do you respond if you are not Brand Registered?

1. Cease and Desist

Contact the counterfeit seller and ask them to stop. Don’t be aggressive or threatening. Inform them you believe they are hijacking your branded product listing and that unless they can produce evidence they are selling legitimately within a certain time (say 48 hours) you will proceed to take all necessary action against them. Best case is they will delete the hijacked listing. If they don’t…

2. Take Necessary Action

Order the counterfeit product from the hijacker. Since you just told the hijacker you are pursuing action, don’t do it from your own account. Either have someone else order the product or create a new Amazon buyer account to disguise your identity. When you get the product, verify that it is a fake or unauthorized version of your brand, take photos and send them along with any additional documentation to Amazon Infringement reporting along with your complaint. The complaint should clearly state why the counterfeit seller’s product differs from yours and/or is inferior, that you have never placed your brand with another reseller and how using your listing by the reseller constitutes misrepresentation.

Another method is to buy out their inventory and file an A to Z claim and complain that you did not receive the product as described.  This will not have any effect on the listing or yourself as Amazon will only look to investigate the fraudulent seller.  If they receive enough A to Z claims, their account will automatically face suspension.

3. Conduct Damage Control

In the meantime, look for negative reviews of your product and confirm whether you sold them. Feedbackwhiz Amazon seller management software has a tool for you to easily get notified, view product reviews and respond to them. Protect and repair any damage to your brand by responding to negative reviews of products bought from hijackers.  You can easily leave a comment on the written review and inform them that you were sorry to hear they had a negative experience, but point out that the product came from an unauthorized seller. If margins are good for your product, you can even offer them a free replacement!  Potential buyers who review the negative experiences can see what the problem was and your proactive response to make a situation you didn’t cause better.