The process of verifying the identities of businesses and individuals who sell on Amazon is known as Seller Identity Verification (SIV). While it may seem like a straightforward and effortless process, many sellers find themselves caught in a never-ending cycle of standard rejections and overwhelming frustration. Although there are notable distinctions between the verification processes in the US and EU, we have discovered that thorough preparation and understanding of the process can greatly minimize potential issues.
Why does Amazon require verification of my information, and what does the process entail?
Upon registering a new seller account, verification is mandatory before you can begin selling on the platform. However, periodic verification, also known as “re-verification,” may be necessary for active seller accounts from time to time.
The specific steps involved in the process may vary depending on the marketplace (such as US or EU) and your business structure. In general, Amazon requests government-issued identification documents like passports or driver’s licenses, as well as proof of address such as bank or credit card statements, or utility bills. If your business is a legal entity, additional documents like Business Licenses or Registration or Articles of Association may be required. The primary distinction between the verification processes in the US and EU/UK is that for EU/UK accounts, Amazon may request an ownership structure diagram and documentation related to share allotment declarations and the “beneficial owners” – individuals who ultimately own or control your business or hold more than 25% of its shares.
Amazon provides comprehensive information about their requirements, and we strongly advise you to review the relevant “Amazon Pay” help pages for the specific marketplace (including the additional links in the left menu of the page):
The purpose of the verification process is to ensure protection!
The verification process serves to protect both buyers and sellers, and it plays a crucial role in Amazon’s commitment to combating money laundering, the sale of counterfeit products, and other illegal activities, while keeping malicious users away from the platform. Periodic re-verification may also be initiated by Amazon to comply with its legal obligations in certain countries, such as the INFORM Act, which recently came into effect in the US, and has affected many sellers (see below).
During verification for a new account, the account will initially remain inactive. However, Amazon may activate the account after the submission of the initial set of documents, even if further information is required. Amazon will provide detailed instructions regarding the additional information and documentation needed, along with the deadline for submission. Generally, for routine verification of an already active account, you will be allowed to continue selling and will be given 30 to 60 days to provide the requested documentation (although Amazon will withhold fund disbursement until verification is complete).
Here is an example of how the notification from Amazon regarding additional documentation might appear:
INFORM Act Verification for Sellers on Amazon’s US Marketplace
The US Congress recently enacted the “INFORM Consumers Act”, which took effect on June 27, 2023. The Act aims to promote transparency in online transactions and dissuade criminals from trafficking in stolen, counterfeit, or unsafe goods through stipulated marketplaces. It mandates online marketplaces to gather, confirm, and disclose specific seller information to the authorities, and also to suspend the accounts of “high-volume” third-party sellers failing to provide this information. Consequently, a significant proportion of sellers on Amazon.com would have received notifications about complying with the INFORM Act’s verification requirements in the past one to two months.
Keep in mind that Amazon now has an obligation to annually verify that your details are up-to-date. The window for submitting this information and documentation might be brief. As such, maintaining your current details on Amazon and ensuring you have the necessary paperwork readily available has become increasingly crucial.
For more information, see Amazon’s “About the INFORM Consumers Act” Guidelines.
Amazon’s Upgraded Video Verification Process
As the verification process continues to evolve, Amazon introduces new procedures and periodically experiments with different methods. Recent innovations are the video verification process, where sellers may be required to participate in a video call, and the sending of a physical card with a code to confirm the business address in Seller Central. While most sellers will still likely encounter the standard Seller Central verification process at some point, Amazon is progressively expanding the implementation of their new video verification system. This system, referred to as the “identity verification video call” by Amazon, involves providing your identity documents while interacting with an Amazon representative through a video call. Amazon emphasizes that their system utilizes advanced technology, including forgery detection, facial recognition, and liveness detection, to swiftly verify the authenticity of government-issued identity documents and ensure they correspond with the individual applying to sell on the platform.
If you have access to the video verification option, please follow the process and requirements outlined below:
1- Scheduling the Call: During the registration process, after uploading your documents in Seller Central, you will be prompted to schedule a call from a provided list of date and time slots. Alternatively, you may request an immediate call and be placed in a queue for the next available agent.
2- Call Preparation: Treat the call as you would a business meeting. Ensure you are in a well-lit and quiet room, with a strong and reliable internet connection. Dress appropriately for a professional setting, considering the nature of the c
3- Document Presentation: Amazon will need to verify the original physical documents you uploaded to Seller Central, including your ID document. Visit the document upload page completed during registration to check which specific documents you should have readily available.
4- Device Compatibility: You can join the call using any device equipped with a front-facing camera and microphone, such as a laptop, tablet, or cell phone. However, carefully review all provided information, as there are specific technical requirements. If using an iOS device, use the Safari browser; for other devices, use Chrome or the recommended browser.
5- Verification Call Process: The verification call itself is relatively straightforward. An agent will request you to hold up your documents to the camera, displaying both the front and back. The call typically lasts 15-20 minutes, with the majority of the time dedicated to Amazon verifying the presented documents.
6- Notification of Completion: Amazon will usually notify you via email within 2-3 days to confirm the successful completion of the process.
Furthermore, Amazon may require you to schedule a video verification call in other circumstances. This may include instances where your existing account has been deactivated or is at risk of deactivation due to account health issues like repeated IP violations or inauthenticity complaints. Video verification may also be necessary if Amazon is considering releasing funds that were held after an account deactivation or as part of an account-level velocity review. In such cases, Amazon will inform you of the need to “verify information related to your identity and the authenticity of your supply chain,” along with the documents requested in a standard verification call. The general process remains the same, but you will also be required to present your physical invoices to Amazon.
What Initiates the Verification Process?
As mentioned previously, Amazon may conduct routine re-verification in specific marketplaces to fulfill legal requirements in certain jurisdictions. However, there are particular situations and events that commonly act as triggers for verification. These include:
1- Reactivating an Inactive Account: When an account that has remained inactive for a period of time intends to resume selling.
2- Modifications to Critical Account Information: Verification can be triggered when changes are made to essential account details, such as legal entity or bank/credit card methods. It is important to note that if these modifications are carried out correctly, verification can often be avoided, though not always.
3- Review of Unusual Account Activity: Verification may be prompted when an account undergoes review due to “unusual” changes in account activity, such as a sudden surge in sales velocity.
4- Approaching Disbursement Benchmarks: In regions like Europe/UK, verification might be triggered as you approach disbursement thresholds, such as reaching 15,000 Euro or GBP in disbursements.
5- Account Health Issues: More recently, we have observed verifications seemingly triggered by account health concerns, such as receiving multiple or repeated IP complaints.
While many of these verification triggers cannot be easily circumvented, planning ahead for a potential verification request can significantly streamline the entire process.
How Can I Prepare in Advance for Verification?
To avoid common pitfalls, especially when opening a new account, it is crucial to prepare in advance and have a clear understanding of the verification process and requirements. Many issues arise from discrepancies between the information entered in your Amazon account and the supporting documentation. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that all information entered matches precisely with your documents.
Amazon employs algorithms to compare the details on your documents with the information in Seller Central. Even minor differences can result in document rejections. For instance, your company name should be entered exactly as it appears on your business registration documents, including capitalization. During verification, Amazon will request these documents. Similarly, your name should be entered exactly as recorded on your passport, driver’s license, or other government-issued ID, including any middle names. Even using abbreviations in your address, such as “St.” for “street,” can create discrepancies.
Emphasizing the importance of accuracy cannot be overstated. Only provide information in your account that can be unequivocally supported by your documents. If there are inconsistencies between the information in Seller Central and your documents, you may need to obtain new documents. Additionally, your various documents should be consistent with each other. For example, providing an ID document with an old address and a utility bill with your current address may result in document rejections.
Amazon also requires specific documents to have been issued within designated timeframes, such as the previous 90 days for a utility bill. This ensures that the information is current and accurate. While not directly related to verification, it is crucial to ensure that none of the information or documentation you provide has been associated with another seller account, even if that account was never approved or activated. Submitting information or documentation already present in Amazon’s records can lead to the connection or association of your account with another, resulting in Amazon refusing to open your new account.
Furthermore, be aware that changes in your personal or business circumstances, such as a divorce, may render you unable to provide Amazon with documents that match your previously entered information. It is best to keep your account information up to date and make necessary changes promptly to avoid such situations. However, be cautious when making changes to critical account information, as these changes themselves can trigger verification. Seeking guidance from a specialist who can assist you throughout the process can significantly reduce the likelihood of triggering verification.
Overall, ensuring accurate information entry from the start and maintaining easily accessible, up-to-date verification documents that precisely match the information in your Amazon account can help mitigate most common issues.
What Are the Requirements for Verification Documents on Amazon?
To ensure a smooth verification process, it is essential to familiarize yourself with Amazon’s detailed requirements, which can be found in their help pages. In addition to the basic criteria such as document type and date, there are various format and technical specifications that must be met for your documents to be accepted. Even if your documents are flawless, submitting them in the wrong file format or size can result in rejection. While the following list provides some of Amazon’s requirements, please note that there are additional guidelines not included here:
- First and foremost, all documents must be genuine, accurate, and unaltered. It is crucial not to add or modify any content in your documents, including highlighting or annotations. If Amazon suspects, whether rightly or wrongly, that you have provided tampered, unoriginal, or altered documents, your account is likely to be deactivated. Appealing such decisions can be challenging, and the chances of a successful outcome are low.
- Documents should be in one of Amazon’s approved languages, unless there is a translation provided on the document itself. For instance, passports typically contain sections in both the issuing country’s language and English, which is acceptable. Some documents may require an officially notarized translation.
- The documents should be scanned as PDFs or submitted as high-quality photos. Screenshots are not approved. Ensure that the document is flat, without any angle, glare, or shadow, and that all edges are visible.
- Provide complete documents. For example, if you are submitting a three-page bank statement, include all three pages rather than just the first page. If there is content on the back of a printed document, such as a bank statement, provide images of both sides of each page.
- Certain documents, like bank or credit card statements, must have been issued within the last 90 days. Amazon will provide specific information in their notification or email regarding this requirement.
- Pay attention to maximum file size limits, file name conventions, file type, and format specifications. For instance, when submitting images of your passport, merge multiple pages into one file instead of submitting each page separately.
- Amazon may offer different options for certain document types based on your location or where your business is registered.
Unfortunately, there are instances where Amazon may reject documents without providing a clear reason, even if you are certain that you have submitted everything as requested.
What Should I Do If My Documents Are Rejected?
If your documents are rejected by Amazon, it’s important to remain calm and carefully review Amazon’s response, as well as any notes provided in the document upload section of your Account Info page. Amazon will often indicate which documents were rejected and may offer a reason or instructions on what needs to be submitted. Although Amazon’s instructions may not always be specific, they can serve as a starting point for your next steps.
Here is an example of the type of information and instructions Amazon may provide on the “Account Info” page in Seller Central:
However, even if your documents meticulously adhere to Amazon’s requirements, they may still be rejected without any explanation. Sometimes resubmitting them after a period of time can lead to acceptance, but continuously submitting the same previously rejected documents is generally not recommended.
To avoid future frustrations, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the verification process before registering a new seller account. Only provide information to Amazon that can be precisely supported by your documentation.
Ensure that your documents are easily accessible, up to date, and precisely match the information you provided to Amazon. This applies whether you are a new seller or a seasoned seller undergoing re-verification. Following these steps will greatly contribute to a swift and successful verification process.
If you are confident that all your submissions comply with Amazon’s guidelines, but your documents continue to be rejected, it is advisable to seek assistance from a specialist who can review your account and documents. They can provide guidance on the best course of action. Keep in mind that even with expert help, the verification process may still take weeks or even months, so patience is essential.
Do you have any questions about the process? Our partners from the Cabilly & Co. law firm will be happy to help you.