The 8 Types of Unauthorized Sellers on Amazon

And How to Remove Them!

  • Who Are These 3rd Party Sellers Who Keep Stealing Your Buy Box?
  • Learn About the Most Common Types of Unauthorized Sellers That You Will Find on Amazon and How to Approach Each Type
  • Armed With This Knowledge, You Will Know Exactly How to Identify the Seller and What Actions to Take

Hi, I'm Emmanuel. I work with brands ranging from small health shops to billion dollar camera companies, helping them remove the most stubborn of unauthorized sellers. I'll be glad to guide you on your journey as you clean up your marketplace, once and for all.  

Don't Have Time To Read The Whole Guide?


Table of Contents


How Bad Is the Unauthorized Seller Problem on Amazon?

When they sell their product online, a brand must consider its perceived image and reputation on the internet and how it can be hijacked by third party sellers. 


All it takes for an unauthorized seller to take hold of the Amazon Buy Box is to have the lowest Fulfilled by Amazon price. Seller reviews hardly even matter.


All of a sudden, everything you have helped build is at the mercy of this anonymous unauthorized seller. As you may be aware, on Amazon it does not matter if the product was sold by the official brand or by a violator, good and bad reviews all count the same. Even worse, most customers don't know about third party sellers. They assume the product they are getting is coming from Amazon or the brand themselves, so if there is a problem, it's the brand's fault!

Do not take these MAP policy violators and unauthorized resellers as a necessary evil or a cost of doing business. The closer you monitor your listings the more you become aware of what kinds of violators you are dealing with. Not all violators are made equal, in fact, quite the contrary. These violators come in all shapes and sizes, and your awareness is crucial to combating this critical issue.

Not only do these MAP policy violations impact the consumer’s image of your brand, but they also affect your ability to sell your products to your distributors. Why would your brick and mortar retailers continue sending purchase orders if customers walk into their store, find a better price on their phone, and walk out the door without a purchase? Why would your online distributors continue buying from you if they are losing the Buy Box every time to an unauthorized MAP violator? Do not let these violators win. 


Below is a thorough breakdown of what these violators look like when a light is shined on them.

Problem #1 - Authorized Channels

As the title implies, these sellers are authorized to sell the listing online as long as they are in compliance with MAP pricing policy. However, either on purpose or by accident, MAP pricing is often violated even by those you have authorized. If done by accident, it is usually due to a clerical error since many of these sellers have thousands of listings or due to an automatic pricing error if they have auto-price match set up and another seller violated your MAP.


It's not always an accident. Sometimes an authorized seller may violate on purpose if they feel their sales are low. One example is if they are sharing the buy box with multiple other authorized sellers who are all following MAP. One seller might get greedy and want 100% of the pie. 


They may also have too much excess inventory and need a positive return on their investment. In that case, they may wait until the evening, weekends, or holidays to violate MAP when they feel the brand is not checking for violators. Another scenario where they may violate MAP is due to price cascading. If they see that another MAP violator has had the buy box for a period of time, they may get frustrated and drop their own price below the MAP price simply to compete.

Brand Alignment Quick Tip

“The more active you are in notifying your authorized channels of MAP policy violations, the less likely they are of violating again in the future".

How to Stop Authorized Channels From Violating?

Since these sellers are authorized, the brand usually knows exactly who they are and how to contact them. A quick phone call or email will typically put an end to the situation immediately if an electronic cease & desist is ignored.


The most important thing a brand can do to stop these types of violations is to have a solid MAP Monitoring Software with multiple price updates per day. Since so many authorized sellers drop below MAP on weekends, evenings, or holidays, 24/7 automated monitoring with screenshots is required.


If the Authorized Channel resists your complaints, we highly recommend considering terminating your agreement with the channel. In extreme cases, legal options are available if your distribution agreements have been correctly worded.

Problem #2 - Individual One-Off Sellers

The most common and usually the least of your brand's worries (if managed correctly). Most times this is just a single individual with little Amazon experience who stumbled across your product(s) through a multitude of channels and aims to quickly resell them for a fast profit.  

One-off Sellers have 5 or less units (in some cases only 1) and often try to sell via Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) since they don’t know about Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) or Buy Box mechanics.

They may not even be competing for the lowest price since they are unaware of the automatic pricing tool. As a brand, you must realize that these types of sellers will never truly go away (unless you hit the Holy Grail and become brand-gated). Your goal should be to minimize damage.


One-off sellers are most dangerous when brands depend on Vendor Central for sales. This is a common scenario:

  1. Third Party Seller drops the prices on their 1 unit below MAP
  2. Vendor Central's algorithm automatically breaks MAP and matches the seller's price
  3. Vendor Central maintains the Buy Box at the below MAP price, not allowing the one-off seller to sell their 1 unit
  4. Authorized Channels such as Walmart or Best Buy match Vendor Central at the below MAP price due to Price Match Guarantees
  5. The brand suffers brand integrity loss and charge backs from vendors due to the Price Match

How to Remove One-Off Sellers From Your Listings?

The quickest way to remove them is to send them a round of Cease & Desist letters. Often times they are unaware that they are doing anything wrong, and a strongly worded letter will scare them. Even if they are stubborn and remain on the listing, they will be sure to never restock your brand in the future.


If Vendor Central keeps matching a MAP violator with 1 or 2 units, it may be best to bite the bullet and maintain a buy-out budget. Better to buy your product back a few times than to lose 100x as much with vendor charge backs. 

Problem #3 - Arbitrage Opportunists and Dropshippers

Arbitrage sellers are often considered “amateur professionals” who sell on Amazon for a secondary source of income. Some are good at it while others have read only 1 or 2 books and want to give it a shot. 


Five years ago, the standard practice was to buy scanner fobs that attached to their smartphones, and then walk around retail stores scanning items, looking for something they could sell for profit on Amazon via arbitrage. As the market became saturated, these sellers evolved to focus more towards online arbitrage.

As the previously mentioned methods became less and less effective, these violators began utilizing software that tracks many E-commerce channels at once; looking for sales, clearances, etc. that they may resell on Amazon. They are constantly using add-ons such as Keepa and CamelCamelCamel to track pricing changes and out of stock inventory.

The most popular category for this type of arbitrage is toys because they may sell for $19 on Target one day and $59 on Amazon the next. This is due to the fact that inventory can suddenly become out of stock and in demand, particularly if Vendor Central runs out of units.


They capitalize on the public’s reliance on Amazon two-day Prime shipping as they know most people would rather pay more on Amazon than spend time shopping around. Many buy inventory and wait for Amazon to go out of stock so they can boost the price and sell out on their inventory at a significantly higher profit margin.

Dropshippers often have access to discounts which allow them to compete with offers on the Amazon marketplace. They don't purchase any inventory, instead they will upload thousands of offers to Amazon, many times above MAP, and play a numbers game hoping for sales. When a sale is made, the prolific sellers have software that automatically sends the order information to their supplier. 


Smart dropshippers turn off the option for customer returns, since that is their greatest risk. Although this comes at the cost of bad reviews and poor Account Health. If done right, dropshipping could be a very successful venture for unauthorized sellers.

Brand Alignment Quick Tip

"If you have an unusual amount of arbitrage sellers during promos, you might be showing up on "Arbitrage Lists". These are exclusive paid groups that share advice on which products to buy. You can find them on Facebook or Community Forums."

How to Remove Arbitrage Sellers and Dropshippers From Your Listings?

These sellers have a substantial number of products and often lack any personal attachment to a specific brand. In order to preserve their arbitrage business, they will often immediately drop a product line if they receive an electronic cease and desist letter. They do this in order to preserve their Amazon account, thus their ability to sell the variety of other brands in their stock. Unless they made a heavy investment in your brand, they should be quick to leave. 

Dropshippers in particular will close their listings since they have no true investment in your brand. Your goal is to identify where they are dropshipping from and put an end to it by contacting the supplier with a Do Not Sell list. This is done with test buys and serial number tracking. There have even been cases of dropshippers purchasing directly from the manufacturer themselves. 

For prevention of arbitrage sellers, require ALL of your authorized channels to set purchase limits on items. If you sell boomboxes, why would any consumer need more than 3 or 4 if they don't plan on reselling? By setting limits, arbitrage sellers are forced to buy on multiple buyer accounts which is time-consuming. Many will avoid purchasing your product altogether if there are limits in place. Keep this in mind especially during deep promo discounts.

Problem #4 - Liquidation Lot Buyers

These types of violators have become more common place over the years as the returns industry has boomed. Retailers like Walmart or Target will sell off their returned inventory to liquidators for pennies on the dollar who will then have public auctions for the contents of the bulk lot. 


The winners of these bulk lots then take pallets of inventory to their garage or warehouse and go through it one by one to see what can be salvaged, fixed, and resold.

This type of reseller model can often be a risky venture due to the inconsistent condition of the purchased bulk lots. However, savvy lot buyers can turn a very handsome profit if they know what they're doing and are capable of properly managing this inventory.

The real risk lays with the brands whose products make up this inventory. This is due to the fact that an FBA seller is able to initially sell a damaged and returned item as new on Amazon, and an unhappy customer may write a negative review, which reflects poorly on the brand, not the seller. 


Outside of counterfeit sellers or burglars, liquidation lot buyers will offer your brand at the lowest of prices. Since they are buying damaged or returned goods, they will acquire their product at far lower prices than anybody else.

How to Remove Liquidation Lot Buyers From Your Listings?

The biggest question mark you have in removing this type of seller is how much inventory did they buy? The less they invested, the quicker they will leave from a Cease & Desist letter. 


The enemy of the liquidation lot buyer is always the condition of the item. Since it's the nature of liquidation lots to be in used or "less than new" condition, the best thing you can do is test buy a product and file a complaint if you received a used version. Amazon does not like it when sellers sell "used as new" and will be on your side if you have proof.


Prevention is tough since liquidation is usually out of your hands. The most important thing is for your authorized channel to hold off on liquidating until MAP pricing is no longer in effect. New versions of your product every year could help in this respect. 

Problem #5 - Mom and Pop Shops

Mom-and-Pops are where MAP violating on Amazon gets interesting. These are smaller retailers who buy either direct from the brand or from a distributor. They may have been around for a while or they can be relatively new to the scene.


A classic example would be of a small salon, who buys product from Cosmo Professional, or direct from a hair and makeup brand. As brick and mortar retail locations and malls have begun to have sales troubles, these businesses find themselves with excess inventory and little recourse.

They assume that their reselling online may be considered too insignificant to be of concern and that they may never get caught. As a result, many decide to pursue this gray area reselling even if their distribution agreements specifically mention online sales being forbidden, and some have even turned it into an impressively profitable side business.

Mom and Pop Shops vary in term of sophistication. They can be very sloppy, often times using the name of their physical storefront as their online seller name. Other locations are very advanced, using anonymous LLCs in New York and Delaware with PO Boxes as addresses. Some even go as far as removing serial numbers from products to avoid identification (a misdemeanor in many states).

How to Remove Mom & Pop Shops From Your Listings?

After identification, one or two electronic cease & desist letters typically do the trick. And if not, a test buy will shut them down right away as usually no buffer exists between them and the resold products if they purchase direct from the brand.


They may continue to ignore your cease & desists if they have gone out of business and have no other way to get rid of their inventory. In this case you can either go after them legally, or simply wait for their inventory to run out. Patience is the best solution in some situations.


Quick tip: To find out the inventory of a seller, add them to your cart and select "999" for the number of items you would like to purchase. Amazon will then tell you how many units they have available for sale.

 

Problem #6 - Smash & Grab Sellers

Smash and Grab Sellers represent your typical small-time con artists working the gray area of the law. They will often rent retail space in a cheap plaza, a kiosk/Retail Merchandizing Unit at a mall or book a booth at a trade show or event for the sole purpose of acquiring a contract with a major brand in order to resell their goods online. They view such efforts as a small start-up fee for what will usually become a profitable endeavor.


The best prevention is to research where they would like to open the retail location and if it makes sense. For example, if you have a luxury beauty brand, and a client wants to open a kiosk at a low-income mall, that would be a red flag. Do your due diligence to avoid problems down the line.


If the sellers are smart they will only sign a month to month or 3-6-month lease with the retail location while continuing to buy goods from your brand. They will have their orders shipped to their residence or receive them at shipping facilities since they no longer have a physical storefront. These shipping addresses should be considered a red flag since it makes little sense to receive the product elsewhere and then move it to the storefront. They will then take the product, label and prep it, then ship it direct to FBA.

As soon as they are able, Smash and Grab Sellers will purchase more and more product from their contractually targeted brand as they know the clock is ticking.

To combat such violators, it would be in your best interest to download an app such as JungleScout or Scope and see which of your products sell the most on Amazon. If your client only buys the top selling Amazon items while seemingly disinterested when you try to offer them a new line of products or a popular product that sells poorly on Amazon, you have another big red flag.


Finally, if your overall client sales are down while a few of your sellers keep buying more and more product even if they are located in middle of the road cities, consider this a HUGE red flag since the Amazon business is booming while malls/brick and mortar retail outlets are at historical lows.

Smash and Grab Sellers may send you pictures of their storefront that they took during their first month while in reality they are no longer occupied. Calling the mall for occupation confirmation is a priority. Also, check to make sure the forwarded lease agreement you received wasn’t a forgery. If so, this would be crucial ammo to use against them when drafting legal documents.


Brand Alignment Quick Tip

“When it comes to the most stubborn and slippery sellers, remember, if they have the inventory in their hands, you already lost. Prevention is key!”

How to Remove Smash & Grab Sellers From Your Listings?

These sellers will 100% ignore your electronic cease & desist letters. They may reply and say they took the product down but put it back up on the weekends, evenings, or holidays and change their seller names. Keep in mind the Merchant ID stays the same, so you can easily track their movement, if they are the same seller.


You must begin test buying with these specific types of sellers and immediately cut off their supply chain. At this point, they are proficient at creating new accounts and dancing around loopholes. Waiting until they run out of inventory is a good option, but often they have purchased so much inventory (as they anticipated the day they would get caught) that this may not be a viable option.


At this point, depending on how skilled this seller is, more advanced methods are required to break their resolve. These methods can include:

  • Trademark Infringement Complaints
  • Brand Registry Complaints
  • Lawsuits
  • Etc.

We know what a nightmare these types of sellers can be. Don't hesitate to contact us if you feel overwhelmed.

Problem #7 - Wholesale Distributors

Wholesale Distributors are a significantly larger threat in terms sales volume than the previous five. They may either operate openly or in the shadows. They tend to have their own warehouse, employees, and liaisons to acquire new brands to buy from. They have strong legal representation ready to fight for the First Sale Doctrine and reverse Amazon account suspensions, which is recognizable in the large number of feedback responses their accounts receive. They jump industry to industry and buy in large bulk, but not so much as to cause suspicion.


Of course, if you have included the necessary verbiage in your distribution agreements mentioning that online or Amazon sales are forbidden, you can terminate the contract immediately and cut off their supply. At this point I recommend contacting each of your direct distributors and warning them to place the violating wholesalers on a Do Not Sell list. However, these companies often have numerous LLCs and addresses they operate under (and Amazon seller accounts), they may circumvent these deterrents by utilizing a new sales liaison. They are very persistent, ruthless, and are even more powerful when operating in the shadows by paying middlemen and patsies to procure product for them.

The bigger your company, the more likely that large wholesalers acquire your product internationally through parallel imports. Serial number tracking is required to begin narrowing down the culprits. In certain countries, lying to manufacturers about what distributors they sell the product to is common business practice.

How to Remove Wholesale Distributors From Your Listings?

You want to do what you can by catching them with product tampering, trademark violations via material differences, selling used as new, wrong product or packaging complaints, etc. Brand Registry complaints are your friend, but don't abuse them. Remove the wrong seller for false reasons and you could have a lawsuit on your hands. Be truthful!


If nothing works, identify the international distributors contributing the most to parallel imports, and cut them off. Creating a Do Not Sell list to pass around your authorized channels and constant test buys with serial number tracing will lead you to the root of the problem.

Problem #8 - Counterfeiters, Knockoff Artists, and Burglars

Most counterfeiters and knockoff artists originate from China or other AIPAC countries and often ship the product themselves from China (or an intermediate location) to an FBA fulfillment center. However, some counterfeiters are American who sometimes unknowingly (but often knowingly) purchase the counterfeit items from a 3rd party reseller space (such as Alibaba.com) and then proceed to resell the inventory on Amazon.


Amazon is very serious about stopping counterfeit sellers due to the legal trouble eBay found themselves in years ago with Louis Vuitton. Purchase the product and send counterfeit evidence to Amazon and they will quickly shut down the seller’s Amazon account, usually after only two or three complaints on the same or multiple listing. Legally there is not much you can do pursue international counterfeiters, but if they are selling counterfeit items in gated categories like Supplements or Topicals, suspending their Amazon account can be a big blow to their business due to the difficulty in becoming ungated with new accounts.

The quickest way to remove a counterfeit seller on Amazon is through Brand Registry. Make a test buy and take pictures. The seller will be removed within 24-48 hours. If you make enough successful complaints, Amazon will offer you access to Amazon Zero which gives you the power to automatically remove counterfeit sellers. This is an extraordinary privilege. Be sure not to abuse that power on grey market sellers with authentic product.

Some enforcement companies promise enforcement by stopping shipments at ports and other difficult and exasperating methods. However, we find that it is quicker and equally effective to simply pursue a suspension on of their account as it is significantly cheaper and an equally painful penalty for these sellers since Amazon confiscates their product unless they can prove the inventory is genuine. In most cases, they can not and their investment is forfeit.

Burglars are rarely first time offenders. They tend to have a long arrest record for various crimes and are likely found in news articles with a quick Google search.


Rings are common and don't be surprised if multiple family members are involved. In my experience, stolen goods skew towards the West Coast. 


Credit card fraud or employee theft can affect consumer electronics in particular. We recommend a strong product control fingerprint on your serial numbering that integrates with Big Box Store Point-of-Sale systems in retailers like Best Buy or Target.  This will also cut down on refund and gift card fraud. 


How to Remove Counterfeiters, Knockoff Artists, and Burglars From Your Listings?

Some enforcement companies promise enforcement by stopping shipments at ports and other difficult and exasperating methods. However, we find that it is quicker and equally effective to simply pursue a suspension on of their account as it is significantly cheaper and an equally painful penalty for these sellers since Amazon confiscates their product unless they can prove the inventory is genuine. In most cases, they can not and their investment is forfeit.


Test Buy => Pictures => Brand Registry Complaint

Will get the job done.


Most burglars are not targeting your brand in particular unless you are Apple or Nike. They take what they can get and sell it as quick as possible. Most likely they won't be back on your listing once they sell out. Test Buy + Serial Number Tracing will give you clues to what happened. 


If it's coming from a specific retail storefront, call and ask the store if they've had a burglary lately or are missing inventory of your product.  If not, they may be a Mom & Pop Shop instead ;) Most likely the stolen goods are literally "falling off the back of a truck". The sophisticated method is done through freight claims. Follow the freight companies and their drivers and you will find your culprit. 

Emmanuel Frost

Co-Founder of Brand Alignment

About the Author

One of the four Co-Founders of Brand Alignment, Emmanuel has led the charge in the removal of nearly $10 million in unauthorized inventory from Amazon alone in the last year. 


Emmanuel is among the world's leading experts in online grey market monitoring and removal. With a focus on proactive brand protection, he advises some of the most recognizable global brands in prevention and removal. 


For questions about how Emmanuel can help your marketplace, he can be reached directly at efrost@brandalignment.com

Don't Have the Time to Do It Yourself?

Let us Take Care of Your Monitoring & Enforcement

The first step in removing unauthorized sellers is spotting them on your listings and that is exactly what the Brand Alignment Monitoring Dashboard will do for you. With price updates every 3 hours and inventory totals for every seller on every listing, you will get the most complete picture possible of your brand on every major online marketplace.

Of course, the most important step in removing unauthorized sellers is prevention and enforcement. This is where Brand Alignment is leagues above the competition. 

  1. 1
    Clear over 80% of unauthorized sellers: Brand Alignment will make a custom strategy for your brand to ensure the highest rates of removal
  2. 2
    Control Your Authorized Channels: Daily emails informing you of authorized channel violations and price cascading events
  3. 3
    Risk-Free Guarantee: Brand Alignment is so confident in their removal rates, that we will create a custom guarantee for every brand. We will remove x% of sellers or you have the option to terminate the contract early

100% Satisfaction Guaranteed

Free Marketplace Evaluation

Will Enforcement Work for My Brand?

In short, the answer is Yes. 


We have had our 80%-90%+ enforcement rates in every single industry we have worked in. That includes the following:

  • Consumer Electronics
  • Apparel and Shoes
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Health & Beauty
  • Sports & Outdoors
  • Mobile Phone Accessories
  • And More

As you are already aware, each industry has their own bells and whistles. Please contact us if you have any specific questions about enforcement in your industry.

Are There Any Risks Involved With Enforcement?

Brand Alignment gives the brand the option of using their own personal cease & desist letters or the option to customize Brand Alignment's proven high performance Cease & Desist letters. These letters were crafted by Intellectual Property lawyers with a full focus on minimizing liability.

Any infringement complaints filed by Brand Alignment are done with the utmost care and transparency. We do not file counterfeit complaints without test buys and approval from the brand. Our trademark complaints are done with caution and all bases covered.


Finally, in this world, anybody can sue anybody for anything. But it does not mean it will stand up in court. There is nothing we can do to prevent frivolous lawsuits from disgruntled sellers. However, we do everything we can to prepare you to have any case against you quickly dismissed. After two years in business, we are proud to say that neither us or any of our brands have had any legal issues of any kind related to our service.

Brand Alignment vs The Competition

If you are new to shopping for a brand protection provider, it might be confusing to tell the difference between companies. It might sound like everybody offers the same type of monitoring and enforcement. This could not be further from the truth.

Brand Alignment

  • Crawls marketplaces for pricing changes every 3 hours or 8x a day
  • Markets monitored for price cascading are crawled every hour or 24x a day
  • Sends a Cease & Desist letter to every unauthorized seller on Amazon
  • Since 100% of all unauthorized sellers are contacted, Brand Alignment averages an 80%-90%+ Removal Rate
  • Uses hundreds of proprietary investigative techniques to identify personal information of sellers and supply chain sources

The Competition

  • Crawls marketplaces for pricing only 1x-4x a day
  • Markets monitored for price cascading are crawled every 3 hours or 8x a day
  • Requires YOU to send a Cease & Desist letter only if YOU have the email of the unauthorized seller 
  • Since only a small percentage of unauthorized sellers are contacted, the competition averages a 10%-30% removal rate
  • Uses basic investigative techniques like Google searches or buying low quality lists in hopes of finding emails to send letters

How Much Money Are You Losing By NOT Switching to Brand Alignment?

  • What is your current Buy Box Loss percentage? How much unsold inventory do you or your authorized channels have due to Buy Box loss?
  • How much are you charged by Vendors for chargebacks related to price matching MAP violators?
  • What effect do unauthorized sellers have on your Brand Integrity when they violate MAP policy or sell refurbished, returned, or used items as New?
  • Are you dealing with unhappy authorized channels who have difficulty obtaining the Buy Box? Are you being turned down by potential authorized channels for not having better control of your MAP policy?
  • Did you know that data shows that less sales are made from 3rd party sellers having the Buy Box than from Amazon having the Buy Box?
  • What are your storage and warehousing costs from unsold inventory due to unauthorized sellers?

How Much Money In Sales Are You Losing Each Year Due to a Lack of Quality Brand Protection?

100% Satisfaction Guaranteed

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100% Satisfaction Guarantee

You are fully protected by our "Brand Alignment Enforcement Guarantee". If we don't reach the custom benchmarks that we agree upon during negotiation, we will give you the option to terminate the contract and you will not be charged any further.

Emmanuel Frost

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Get Started?

I Have More of a Counterfeit Problem Than a Grey Market Problem. Can You Help?

Do You Work With Third Party Vendors or Only Directly With Brands?

What Are Your Enforcement Rates on Other Marketplaces Besides Amazon?

​My Grey Market Problem Extends Outside the USA. What Can You Offer?

I Had a Bad Experience With My Last Brand Protection Provider, Why Will You Be Any Different?


P.S.: Due to the constant changing nature of online marketplaces, our Enforcement Guarantee is a limited time offer.


Please contact us now to ensure you are locked in with your guarantee.

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