March 7, 2021

Banned Products and International Ecommerce

Dr Peter Mowforth

One of the most obvious ways that countries differentiate themselves is through the laws that govern how they trade - both internally and externally. As well as there being different levels and types of tax, there is also massive complexity around the rules and regulations surrounding different products and product categories. These rules and regulations will have evolved over time and are continually re-written as countries and regions attempt to balance cultural differences with national standards. All of this is inevitably combined with providing competitive advantage to those who vote for the local decision makers. If all these rules and regulations for global trade were printed they would fill a big room.Ecommerce websites increasingly make use of multiple channels to market and sell their products. The larger ecommerce players may well have different versions of their website with each targeting different countries or regions. Each of these sites then feeds products to marketplaces in different countries (e.g. or If the ecommerce company has 50,000 products for sale and these are being fed into 2 marketplaces that sell in 20 different countries then you have two million (50k * 2 * 20) different product pages to maintain. Each of these 2 million listing may have prices and stock-levels that potentially change on a daily basis. The key point here is that managing such feed systems MUST involve fully automated technology.If we combine the requirement for ecommerce feeds being automated with the requirement of knowing the rules and regulations for what products are allowed to be sold in different territories then we quickly appreciate that these feeds need to be smart.

  • Ebay carries information about (some of) its own rules and regulations here.
  • Amazon has similar here.

While automated feed management systems such as M2Epro are increasingly used to distribute product listings around the world, in our experience, all available systems fall well-short on their region-by region and country-by country rule bases for prohibited or restricted products.If you are in any doubt about the importance of this topic for ecommerce traders, we’ve heard about a company that recently got banned for 30 days from eBay because of just one banned item that appeared within their feed. The offending item was passed through as part of an automated manufacturers bundled product. Within that product bundle there was a single banned item. The eBay catalog team in the US picked-up on the illegal item and a series of automated emails were sent to the account management email address. The particular email address was not managed and nobody in the ecommerce team picked up the series of warnings until it was too late. The entire feed was banned and, over the 30 day period, the company lost around £250,000 of sales.What’s clear is that falling foul of banning rules can be about as dangerous as selling an 18 year old an assault rifle (which is legal in Texas but, not surprisingly, is banned in the UK).

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