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Will Amazon classify your product hazardous?

By Chris Dawson September 23, 2014 - 11:05 am

We’ve been contacted by a Tom of Starkey Headsets who is in a bit of a dilemma. It’s also something that could affect vast numbers of sellers on Amazon that use FBA.

Tom told us that he was looking through the company’s products on Amazon wondering why one particular product had had no sales for a while. Checking their Amazon account he discovered that the product, a set of headphones, was inactive but he didn’t know why. This is what Tom had to say after querying if the product really was inactive:

BatteriesA phone call to seller support confirmed that this was the case. The reason given was that this item has been deemed as hazardous. No other information was given apart from the agents’s opinion that it maybe to do with the batteries. At no point were we informed by Amazon that this listing has been made inactive. Without regularly checking all listings how would we know? We have no idea how long this listing has been inactive and no way of gauging how many orders have been lost.

According to Amazon the resolution to this problem is to get a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) from the manufacturer. This can take a long time and if we need to get this for all our products we could be disabled as a company as our stock is in Amazon warehouses. It cannot be sent to a customer and it cannot be returned to us. It is effectively in quarantine.

There are two problems with this process

1. Amazon failed to inform us of this problem. We had to find out for ourselves.
2. These products are CE approved. Is that not good enough?

To make this situation worse we have multi-channel fulfilment orders for this product that we thought had been sent. Again, there was no notification from Amazon that these orders could not be fulfilled. In fact, we can still add a multi-channel fulfilment order for this product today, even though it will not be dispatched!

To summarise

– Why are these products deemed to be hazardous?
– Why has amazon not informed us?
– Why can we still request multi-channel fulfilment orders for hazardous ASIN’s?
– We have several customers that have not received orders.
– We have to buy more stock in to cover the stock that is held in Amazon.

Speaking to Tom we’re still not certain what the issue is. Yes the product (a blister pack) contained batteries, but (at least so far as Royal Mail are concerned) alkaline, NiMH and NiCd batteries are safe to ship to both UK and International destinations.

There are a ton of products on Amazon, eBay and retailers own websites where the packages contain batteries (sometimes inside the device and at other times in the packaging). If Amazon are going to classify these products as hazardous that’s going to be a problem. In truth we don’t even know for certain that the reason the product has been classified as hazardous is because it contains batteries.

We also don’t know if Amazon have classified the product as hazardous because it they export from FBA outside the UK or if it’s a particular courier Amazon uses that won’t ship the product. One might ask the question as to how Amazon can classify a product as to be so hazardous that it can’t be returned to the retailer, but not too hazardous to sit in their warehouse.

Currently Tom is left with stock which Amazon won’t sell, won’t return and sooner or later will start to incur long tern storage fees. If you’ve been in this situation we’d love to hear more and if you’ve reached a resolution with Amazon.

  • 2 years ago

    We have had this, once they are classified as HAZMAT then you have to act quickly to get a MSDS uploaded – we were told (in our case scented candles) that our stock could be ‘disposed of’ in the meantime! It pays to be careful what you send to FBA…

  • JohnC
    2 years ago

    You won’t get an MSDS on headphones, though, will you?

    They aren’t a substance.

  • elvis
    2 years ago

    I had this same issue. Amazon said my stock of dart flights were hazmat lolololol. Yes nylon dart flights. Obviously i contacted the darts manufacturer who said they don’t have an MSDS for this product. Any human being with common sense and half a brain can see a dart flight isn’t HAZMAT.

  • 2 years ago

    You can complete an exemption form if they aren’t HAZMAT, I believe.

  • 2 years ago

    We had this recently with an FM Transmitter, which did not contain any batteries. Just because we stated it requires batteries on the description they withdrew it from sale and failed to inform us. We noticed it 3 weeks ago after no sales for 2 months or so. The long and the short of it is that we managed to change the description to state batteries not included and FBA were happy to then let it be active again. We lost loads of sales and sales ranking. We have not had to put it on sale to get it back up the rankings. If only FBA had informed us we could have resolved the issue immediately and it was only caused due to them thinking there ‘may’ be batteries included.
    the apparent cause for their concern is that they need to account for all hazardous materials to comply with their insurance on their fulfilment centres. They do not want to risk it burning down like what happened to ASOS and not be covered.

  • 2 years ago

    Not Amazon but a few years ago I was told by a young idiot from the Local Council that Books(yes those paper and cardboard Books that contain all the knowledge of mankind) were hazardous because according to him Books suffer from ‘Spontaneous Combustion of Books’. When I stopped laughing I asked him about the Public Libraries operated by his Council and suggested that he go back and check on the special precautions that the Council took to protect them. I never heard anything more so I take it that they laughed at him as well.

  • Rod F
    2 years ago

    This is an issue and one that effects us greatly.

    We have recently had the same issue with them and several calls and many email exchanges later we feel we are finally getting there.

    Firstly I agree with the original post that it’s a bit much that as in his case we had no contact at all regarding this. The trouble is their new policies have many flaws.

    We are direct importers and brand creators, so on many of our items we are classed as the manufacturer, which means we are very knowledgeable when it comes to product compliance including battery compliance laws. However the biggest issue here is there policy crosses over law and what they believe can have the “potential” to be a hazardous product. So you can in fact have a perfectly legal product that complies completely, but there system could flag it up as a product that could “potentially” be hazmat. The biggest issue here is there algorithm for detecting this, which from my understanding is picking up keywords like batteries. So if your product even says “batteries not included” it could be flagged up and disabled until they either do there own research to establish this or contact the retailer to establish this.

    If it does contain batteries you with need either a MSDS ” “Material Safety Data Sheet” Now to be honest with you this to me is a little silly, because if you can establish beforehand that IT IS classed as hazardous (details below) then whats the point in spending forever getting this info as you will not be able to list it FBA and if IT IS NOT classed as hazardous then just fill in an exemption form. It seems to me that what there looking for is larger batteries here and not your standard battery products like (DD AA AAA 9v) etc. So even if you tick the box that says “Is the product a non-spillable battery, packed with a non-spillable battery or does it contain a non-spillable battery?” just put the information of the batteries such as watt, number of batteries and battery type. Or just tick the no box, if as in my case they have picked on products which do not include batteries and are not classed as hazardous in any other way. To be on the safe side I also put on the forms product description (Does not include batteries)

    Trouble is they have not given good enough information that simplifies this process, they have not trained there seller support team with this information and it’s a minefield on there site, as well as confusing getting this information. That’s not to mention the fact they are not informing you in some cases for weeks. This so I have been told is because they try to investigate it first themselves which can take a few weeks and then they will contact you if they fail to establish if it is hazmat or not. My advise would be to keep checking your listings in FBA to make sure they are listing, one of the telling signs is that it will say at the side of your stock there is no listing for this inventory in red. Also on any new listings I will be sending as standard an exemption form by opening a case in seller central give the new listing asin. I am told this way you can get it “Hazmat exempt” approved before sending in any stock and it should only take a few days and it will put a block on it been taken down in the future.

    This is the criteria for an exemption on lithium batteries

    “Products that are or contain small Lithium-ion or Lithium-metal batteries below 100 watt-hours for lithium ion batteries or less than 2 grams of lithium for lithium metal batteries:”

    If tamebay contact me I will provide them with a copy of the MSDS Form which also includes an exemption form as well. It also as some useful information links, although these can often over confuse the situation if it is just the battery which is causing the issues.

  • Roger C
    2 years ago

    In that it has been mentioned in this thread with some authority may I throw a spanner into the works? “CE” is worthless, it’s a poorly used “mark” so badly abused that it’s long overdue it was banned!

    The “CE” mark/label implies that the manufacturer has of their own violation and without ANY inspection at all “self certified” that their product complies with a set of standards. Nobody checks that the claims are true . . . though I wouldn’t be surprised if various Trading Standards found the label on “dodgy” battery chargers that had caused house fires.

    How much Chinese items are on eBay with this mark? How many of them have just that symbol and nothing else?

    The public are continually being conned by this “mark/label” . . . it’s time it vanished!

    • 2 years ago

      Oh it’s fine…. I’ve had the claim “It’s not the same mark (just similar) and stands for “China Export”!!!!!”

  • 2 years ago

    Same story here.

    Yes, safety is important but it annoys me that Amazon do not notify me when closing listings due to HAZMAT reason. And this is despite selling the same product themselves. There is no excuse for not informing the seller so the issue can be resolved asap and sales can begin again.

  • John
    2 years ago

    Is this not a case of blatant theft by Amazon. They should allow the item to be picked up at the worst case.

  • Rod F
    2 years ago

    I agree with the certain points made on CE marking, as we have to inform the factories that we use exactly what to put on packaging. We have come across factories that would atomically put it on anything, even products such as none electrical fitness items that should not even have this mark on.

    CE is mainly for electric items and all products classed as a toy. If your looking at none branded products I personally think it’s the sellers and importers that need more scrutinisation. Far to many companies get away with not complying with current regulations, which makes it harder for those who spend money on getting this right. Although it’s not just about the money it also means if your doing it right your products are also compliant.

    The CE mark on any product not only means that the Importer is certifying that this product is compliant, but it also means that they should have produced a CE certificate which confirms the directives of what the product as been tested to. They should also have a technical file which as copies of these test reports. That is the main reason for this mark to give consumers confidence, but if the importer is acting unlawfully its not worth the cardboard box it’s marked on!

    In principle I feel that CE marking is a good thing. However I feel it would work a lot better and give consumers more confidence if you had to register each product you had a CE mark for on a national data base done by an authoritative body that then gives the product a unique CE number, which can be checked against there data base. This should have all details required by law, information about the product Bar Code, SKU, Brand and test reports etc so no one can fake it. If you did the number would go to a different product. Also this would make it much easier for the likes of trading standards to do many more random checks in a much quicker time frame.

  • 2 years ago

    We deal with HAZMAT all the time with FBA. Sometimes, an MSDS sheet is required, sometimes you just need to pester support until they escalate the issue but it usually takes a minimum of 1 week to get a product out of HAZMAT.

    There’s a report in Seller Central under Reports >> Fulfillment Reports >> Inventory >> Hazmat Status Change Report. This is the only place that tells you when the product was marked as HAZMAT or cleared for HAZMAT.

  • Cambridge_Blue
    2 years ago

    Thanks for that Nathan – we had forgotten that report existed!
    This whole issue is a nasty one for FBA sellers and not helped at all by the failure of Amazon to communicate properly with their seller partners.
    However lest we ever forget Rule One of Amazon Club is ‘do it their way or it is the highway exit’.
    Sorry to say the best we can do is manage the problem and minimise any stock exposure at risk.

  • David
    2 years ago

    Amazon have gone HAZMAT mad last few weeks. Products I have sold before via FBA suddenly have HAZMAT issues. No notification , just by chance I noticed the items weren’t for sale because I wasn’t seeing any sales. They are slapping it on coins, garden ornaments, crazy things where there is no HAZMAT.

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