Amazon.com is taking steps to protect big brands after a recent surge in counterfeiting, and many rule-abiding sellers are paying the price.
Online stores that want to sell brands like Nike, Adidas and Hasbro are being told they have to pay a one-time nonrefundable fee of up to $1,500 per brand, according to interviews with multiple sellers. That's after being asked to provide invoices from manufacturers or distributors that show the purchase of 30 items within the last 90 days.
The process, which started rolling out selectively last week, is called "brand gating," and it amounts to a big toll for sellers.
There will be plenty of detractors in the low-margin and highly competitive business of e-commerce. But it's a sign that Amazon, which dominates online commerce in the U.S., is taking counterfeit selling seriously. The site is making it significantly harder for unauthorized merchants to flourish.
"We want customers to be able to shop with confidence on Amazon," Erik Fairleigh, an Amazon spokesman, wrote in an e-mail. "For certain products and categories, Amazon requires additional performance checks, other qualification requirements, and fees."
So problematic is Amazon's counterfeit issue that Birkenstock took the dramatic step last month of telling third-party merchants that, as of Jan. 1, it will no longer sell on the site or allow its partners to do business in the marketplace.