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Amazon Tests Video Calls in Seller Verification

Amazon is piloting video conference calls in its seller verification process to screen third-party merchants seeking to sell on its marketplace. The company initially began live, in-person verification measures earlier in 2020, but recently pivoted to video screening due to social distancing mandates amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Over the last few years, Amazon’s marketplace has seen a growing number of bad actors, or “black hat” consultants, including counterfeiters, algorithm hackers, and listing hijackers, who use illegitimate tactics to manipulate the system on Amazon and cheat their way to the top.

The company in recent months has fallen under scrutiny for its limited oversight of products listed by third-party sellers, many of which are based in China. A 2019 analysis by the Wall Street Journal found over 4,000 items listed on Amazon that have been declared unsafe by federal agencies, are deceptively labeled, or are banned by federal regulators.

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Amazon’s new live screening effort is one of several measures the company employs throughout the seller verification process to minimize fraud on its platform. To vet the sellers, Amazon’s internal team coordinates a video call and takes steps to confirm that the seller’s ID matches the person on the call and in the documentation provided with the seller application.

The pilot video conference initiative is now operating in a number of markets, including the U.S., the U.K., China, and Japan. To date, more than 1,000 sellers have attempted to register an account through the pilot program, according to TechCrunch.

The problem of fraudulent behavior on Amazon returned to the limelight amid the COVID-19 crisis, during which countless third-party sellers and product listings were found to be tripling or quadrupling their prices on essential items or citing unsupported health claims about their products’ ability to combat the coronavirus.

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In March, the company said it had suspended more than 3,900 U.S. seller accounts, removed more than 530,000 products from its platform over price-gouging, and had taken down “millions” of items that made unsupported claims about their ability to protect and fight against COVID-19.

In addition to video conferencing, Amazon also uses proprietary machine-learning algorithms to vet sellers before they are approved to sell on the marketplace. According to Amazon, the system analyzes hundreds of data points to identify potential risks, such as whether the seller is related to another account that was previously removed from the marketplace for fraudulent behavior. Amazon said these processes prevented 2.5 million accounts from listing items on the platform in 2019.

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The Top Amazon News Stories in May 2020

News On Monday, Amazon announced that they will be waiving the storage fees that were scheduled to be charged on 15 May. They are doing this as removal orders have been delayed due to prioritising essential shipments.News

This is good to see and should provide a small break for sellers who were going to be subject to these fees.

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Coronavirus: You might think Amazon profits are soaring right now. You’d be wrong: Sky News reports that Amazon has said it could record its first loss in five years despite a hike in revenue as it spends at least $4bn (£3.2bn) in response to the coronavirus outbreak. While other traditional shops have been forced to shut because of the COVID-19 lockdown, the online retailing giant recruited an extra 175,000 workers to cope with a surge in orders during the pandemic. In the current financial quarter, which has witnessed coronavirus lockdowns around the world, Amazon said it could see a 28% increase in revenue to $81bn (£65bn). Continue reading…

US lawmakers demand Jeff Bezos testify over Amazon’s ‘possibly criminally false’ statements: Julia Carrie Wong at The Guardian reports that a bipartisan group of House lawmakers investigating Amazon for possible antitrust violations have demanded that Jeff Bezos testify before Congress to address statements by the company that “appear to be misleading, and possibly criminally false or perjurious. Although we expect that you will testify on a voluntary basis, we reserve the right to resort to a compulsory process if necessary,” seven leaders of the House judiciary committee, including the chair Jerry Nadler, wrote in a letter to the Amazon CEO on Friday. Continue reading…

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Amazon unit’s vice-president resigns over whistleblower firings: Patricia Nilsson at the Financial Times reports that a senior Amazon software engineer has resigned in protest over the company’s dismissal of whistleblowers who brought attention to safety concerns among its warehouse workers. Tim Bray, a vice-president at Amazon Web Services, the retailer’s cloud computing division, said on Monday that he had stepped down from his role as vice-president and distinguished engineer after having “escalated [concerns] through the proper channels and by the book”. “I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19,” he said in a blog post. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Continue reading…

Amazon encourages sellers to help supply medical institutions with vital PPE: Lauren Fruncillo at Tamebay reports that Amazon has announced they are working with European governments and health agencies in response to COVID-19 in order to supply hospitals, medical institutions and government organisations with personal protection equipment (PPE) and other key health and safety products. The news comes shortly after eBay announced that they were creating NHS Portal to supply PPE across the UK with DHSC. It’s great to see these companies working together to help ease the pressures on healthcare services. Continue reading…