“Now the crackdown is continuing. I haven’t seen sellers from other countries suffer as big a blow,” Wang said. She feels it proves that the crackdown is targeted at sellers from China.
Wang admitted that some sellers based in China do have problems following Amazon’s rules. But she insists that some sellers could have been mistakenly suspended, because they did not try to bribe for good reviews. Besides, as the ban is based on the platform’s own rules, she questions whether the rules are clear and fair enough and whether Amazon is partial in implementation, selectively using the rules to crack down on Chinese brands. “Amazon is both referee and competitor after all,” Wang told NewsChina.
She said that Amazon usually chooses periods around expected shopping sprees such as Black Friday and Christmas to crack down on violators. This current ban started ahead of Prime Day, an annual summer sales event on Amazon. “In such cases, the sellers usually need to wait for one to three months to get their accounts unblocked, so they will miss the peak season,” Wang said.
Meanwhile, Amazon is pushing products from their in-house brands like electronic toothbrushes and hair dryers that are also bestsellers from Chinese vendors. “The suspended accounts almost all sell big brands, and they likely spent a lot to attract customers beforehand. Now they are suspended, customers have to turn to other brands,” Wang said. Amazon has up to 100 of its own brands, including AmazonBasics and Pinzon. Sales are increasing and these brands are often promoted more heavily on the platform than similar goods from third-party sellers.
In the past, about 60-70 percent of the blocked accounts could get unblocked. But this time it seems more difficult. Some big sellers claimed that only 20 percent of the accounts that apply get unblocked, and some told NewsChina their accounts remain frozen.
Du believes that as a platform, Amazon is not motivated to deliberately block sellers from China as they contribute a major part of its income. Amazon charges around 15 percent of the sales on its platform as commission, higher than most domestic platforms. It also has been active in getting Chinese sellers, “holding 1,000 promotion fairs every year,” several industry insiders told NewsChina.
“Some sellers might be hurt mistakenly, but not many. There might be other reasons why they violated the rules,” Li Bo said. He added that compared with domestic e-commerce platforms, Amazon has stricter rules.
At a press conference held in late July, Li Xingqian, director of the Ministry of Commerce’s foreign trade department, responded that it is a problem arising from the development of new forms of foreign trade, which is probably short-term and is an indication of “growing pains.” Li Xingqian added that the government will help enterprises improve risk-control and learn how to abide by international trade rules and will support them in protecting their own interests via reasonable measures.
“Cross-border e-commerce requires more cooperation in compliance supervision on a global level, such as in information sharing, data interchange, law enforcement and so on, to tackle problems with burgeoning commercial activities,” Du said.
The SCEA told NewsChina that it has reported the matter to the Ministry of Commerce and that relevant departments will investigate. Amazon has not made any further comment.