Amazon’s online marketplace has always been a kind of wild west for sellers. Yes, customers often get a really good deal–usually from trusted sellers or brands themselves. But other dubious sellers have been known to hawk counterfeit goods, and it’s been a difficult cat-and-mouse game for the platform to adjudicate. (To learn more about how insane the world of Amazon’s marketplace, I recommend listening to this episode of Reply All.) Up until now, the only way to get rid of a counterfeit product is for the brand to report it directly to Amazon, which would then go through a long process to figure out if the item was real or not.
Now Amazon is piloting a program called “Project Zero,” which gives sellers the power to delete others’ items, reports the Wall Street Journal. The program allows the official brands to use a new portal, which will let them search keywords and images to find items available on the marketplace. They can click any product they believe to be fraudulent, and either the listing or the seller’s offer will be automatically removed. Additionally, Amazon is implementing a system where every individual item can get its own unique code, which will be put on the packaging, to make it easier to determine a product’s authenticity.
There is, of course, a flip side to this, which is that brands could become drunk with power and delete smaller sellers’ items that weren’t counterfeit. Indeed, many premium brands are known to try to curb “unauthorized sellers,” even if the product being sold is the real deal. Amazon told the WSJ that it will be closely monitoring how brands use the tool to ensure this doesn’t happen. Additionally, sellers are able to appeal decisions.
So far, about 15 brands have trialed Project Zero, and more are being invited to participate soon.
You can read the full WSJ writeup here.