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Lori Greiner is moderating the Brand Intelligence Summit Register now

Lori Greiner is moderating the Brand Intelligence Summit Register now

Brand Protection
4 mins

How do test buys help with unauthorised seller enforcement

How do test buys help with unauthorised seller enforcement

Test buys are an essential part of a brand protection strategy. When you test buy counterfeit items, you get solid evidence that they are in fact counterfeits. You can use that evidence to submit IP complaints. You can also use test buys to shut down fake or gray market sellers on Amazon based on the fact that the item doesn’t match the description. In this article, we’ll go over what test buys are and how you can use them in a brand protection strategy. 

Summary

  • What is a test purchase?
  • When should I conduct a test purchase? 
  • What is the Amazon test buy procedure?
  • Benefits of test purchases and how to integrate them into your strategy

What is a test purchase?

Test purchases are used in a variety of industries, but in the field of brand protection, a test purchase involves purchasing an item from a seller that a brand suspects is either unauthorized or selling counterfeits. A test purchase can confirm what the brand suspected, or it can reveal that the seller is stocking genuine products. A brand may also make test purchases from distributors in its own supply chain to make sure each partner is following retail agreements.

A test purchase can also reveal more information like shipping addresses and business names that might not be readily available on a listing. This can help you build intel about the parties responsible for a counterfeit operation. 

When should I conduct a test purchase? 

If you suspect a seller is stocking gray market or counterfeit goods and would like to do a test purchase, make the purchase before you submit a formal IP complaint. The purpose of a test purchase is to give you more information about the suspicious products. It gives you leverage to back up your position that a particular seller is infringing on your intellectual property rights. You can then use this information in your IP complaint to the ecommerce platform. 

You don’t need to do a test purchase for every seller on every platform that you come across. Some may obviously be selling fakes and you can gather enough evidence without a test purchase. But, in many cases, it can be useful to get the physical product and use photos to submit with a complaint. It’s also a good idea to keep all records of receipts and delivery confirmations to support the fact that you did get a physical product and examine it. 

Be careful in deciding whether or not you should return the test purchase item to the sender after you document it. If you use your own account on Amazon to complete test purchases, be aware that making too many return requests can cause Amazon to flag your account, even if you’re sending back counterfeits. 

Amazon test buy procedure

So what does the Amazon test buy procedure look like? In fact, Amazon doesn’t set out a procedure in writing. Over the years, sellers have simply performed test purchases and found out what works and what doesn’t. 

For starters, don’t perform an Amazon test buy from your business account. In other words, you don’t want to let the seller know that you are doing a test buy. You should create a generic shopping account or use a colleague’s account to shop. With Amazon, it’s important that you act as a normal customer when doing a test buy. 

Along those lines, never leave feedback on a test purchase. It’s against Amazon’s terms to write reviews about products you have a financial interest in (or an interest in removing), even if you use an anonymous account. 

So, the first step is to simply make a purchase with a shopping account from the suspected listing. Save your purchase confirmation. Then, save your delivery confirmation when the item gets to you. Next, take detailed and clear photos of the packaging, item, and any peripherals to show how it’s different from the description on the listing. Record the following information as well: 

  • ASIN/ISBN of the product
  • Product title
  • Store name
  • Order confirmation ID
  • Brief descriptions of what’s wrong with the item

When you describe the issue with the item, have the perspective of a normal shopper who encountered a product different from the description. At this point, you aren’t making an infringement claim. You just want Amazon to realize the item doesn’t match the description and then remove the listing. 

After you gather your information, submit it to Amazon Seller Performance. Log into your Seller Central account, go to the contact page, click “Other Issues,” and then “Report a Violation.” The reason for the violation is that the item is “Not as Described.” From there, it can take a couple of days for Amazon to remove the listing. 

Benefits of test purchases for online brand protection 

From gathering intel on counterfeit sellers to providing valuable data points, test purchases are useful in a number of ways. Here are a few examples. 

  • Combat parallel distribution or gray market: Conducting test purchases is one of the best ways of reducing gray market and parallel import sellers. With an evaluation of the product in hand, you have more leverage to prove the seller isn’t authorized. 
  • Stop counterfeit sellers: Test buys make it very easy to enforce against blatant fakes. When you’ve documented the test buy as a counterfeit, the seller doesn’t have a case. 
  • Gather evidence: Counterfeit sellers can disguise their information, especially when they use informal channels on social media. But when you do a counterfeit test buy, you can get a real name and return address to use in your anti-counterfeiting investigation. 
  • Identify unauthorized sellers: With test purchasing, you can identify when a gray market product contains material differences like incorrect packaging or lack of a warranty. 
  • Support civil court cases: Test purchases provide the evidence needed to file strong civil cases against infringers. 
  • Make informed decisions using tailor-made research, data gathering, and analysis: When you combine test buys with a brand protection program, you can build a database of knowledge about various sellers, different types of infringing products, where they come from, and how many you’ve stopped. 

How to integrate investigation services into your brand protection strategy 

A holistic brand protection strategy includes investigation services along with digital detection and enforcement. Test purchases support anti-counterfeiting investigations which work together with advanced technology to secure your brand’s reputation. 

At Red Points, our world-class experts handle complex investigation challenges with a team that leads the largest brand protection customer base in the industry. Test purchasing is an integral part of our investigation services. Here’s a look at what we offer.

  1. Field investigation: Our experts take a deep dive into criminal networks around key offenders across the globe. 
  2. Gray sellers report: Take advantage of custom reporting and analysis to make informed decisions on unauthorized sellers. 
  3. Test purchase: Enforcement experts set up relevant test purchases through anonymous sources so you can review products and verify infringements. 

Thinking about doing some test buys? Get in touch with our investigation experts to strengthen your enforcement strategy with test purchase services.

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