Dealing with Amazon’s UPC Requirements

by Steve on July 29, 2008 · 40 comments

"Is it true that Amazon requires a UPC for every item? How can I sell my one of a kind or antique item without a UPC?"

Amazon recently announced they would require UPC codes on products listed in their catalog:

Starting in August 2008, our systems will require a UPC for products listed in the Amazon.com Home and Garden store. Items without UPCs create challenges for both Amazon and our merchants, but more importantly, they degrade the shopping experience for our customers due to duplicate product listings and incorrect search matches. While we have always advised merchants to provide a UPC for each of their listings, we have not required it until now.

Items such as antiques, handmade items, or other items without a UPC can still be sold on Amazon.com. If you have such an item, and you have a Pro-Merchant account, you can still create a product description page using the Everything Else category. A word of caution though: If your item SHOULD have a UPC and there is a category specifically for it on Amazon, you may not use the Everything Else category as a work-around. In other words, don't try to cheat. Everything Else means "everything else" other than categorized items. Amazon is pretty strict about keeping the site well organized.

There are two things you can do to try to get around the UPC requirement. First, you can talk with a rep on the phone. If you've been frustrated with eBay phone support - you'll be happy with Amazon. From your Manage Your Inventory Page, in the upper right click "Seller Help" and have Amazon call you. Then ask them what you should do to be able to list your item.

Second, if you hit the UPC wall, you can email Amazon and ask for an exception to the rule for your product. There is a good chance you can get one if you make your case well. Be polite, and don't get nasty if you can't get an exception right now. They assure me they are working on a number of things to accommodate the large number of eBay sellers beginning to sell there. (I predict a "Collectibles" category in the future - you heard it here first.)

Here is some information directly from Amazon you should find helpful:

Currently, we require a Universal Product Code (UPC) or a European
Article Numbers (EAN) for many products submitted through our Create a
Product Detail Page feature. We require this identifying data for the
following products:

* Baby Products (UPC or EAN)
* Camera & Photo (UPC or EAN)
* Electronics (UPC or EAN)
* Home, Kitchen & Garden (UPC or EAN)
* Music CD or Cassette (UPC or EAN)
* Musical Instruments (UPC or EAN)
* Software (UPC or EAN)
* Tools & Hardware (UPC or EAN)
* Toys & Games (UPC or EAN)
* Video & DVD (UPC)

If the item you would like to sell falls under one of the categories
listed above and does not have the required product identifier, it
cannot be listed using the Create a Product Detail Page feature.
However, if the item being sold was manufactured or printed prior to
the establishment of UPC codes, you can write to our Seller
Performance group to request permission to create the catalog page
without the UPC. You can contact this department via email using the
following address:

seller-performance@amazon.com

For more information on obtaining a UPC or EAN, please contact:

Uniform Code Council Inc.
8163 Old Yankee Road, Suite J
Dayton, OH 45458 USA
Telephone: (937) 435-3870

http://www.gs1us.org

UPDATE: If you can find your item already listed by another seller, viola! You can piggy-back on their UPC. This may not help sellers of many one-of-a-kind items, but with so many items in the Amazon.com catalog, search for your product - even though unique - before giving up entirely.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert Simms December 6, 2013 at 6:40 am

Hi,

There are a number of legitimate resellers of UPC or EAN barcodes out there.
Spending the amount of money that GS1 charges just isn’t necessary.
Check out The Authenticated UPC Registry, started by George Laurer, the inventor of the UPC, they list verified barcode sellers.
We found Legal Barcodes to have the best prices for our needs.
They have a Buy One Get One Free offer going on through the holidays. $7.50

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Aaron October 26, 2013 at 10:07 am

I have also used Nationwide Barcode to release a CD on Amazon (Leadsucker – Burn if you like hardcore punk), it worked fine, and it was under $10 for one. I know the price breaks are ridiculous, though, so even buying ten will cut that price in half, for each one.

Just went to their website, and they’re offering one for $6.50 through the end of November, which is a couple dollars less than I paid. They came with clear instructions, and were very easy to add to my project. If you need one, I’d definitely recommend Nationwide, and would easily use them again if I was ever required to do so.

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William Madison January 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm

There is no governing authority so any retailer which does not mandate GS1 barcodes should really let vendors make up their own number. For example, Barcodes Talk has a prefix of 0799975. If I arbitrarily made up a number with a check digit of 799975546568, Barcodes Talk has no ownership of the number and CAN NOT DO A THING TO PROTECT THEIR CLIENT. These resellers are claiming to be the white in shining armour for small companies. They are just playing on online retailers’ ignorance on standardized identification. By not mandating a single global source, these retailers are opening themselves up to potential duplication.

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t. August 6, 2012 at 11:08 pm

i think staged comments means the commentors are tied to the website they link, financially or in other ways.

anyone knows where one can go without needing a UPC, other than Ebay.
Amazon is requiring the UPC.
most of my products are made in china and are generic dollar items, mostly unbranded
(sponge, paper clips, guitar picks…)

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Lizzi June 26, 2012 at 7:51 am

gs1 is the way to go ….Get your company’s certifcation through them… My impression is that you should be using the bar codes associated with your own personal companies certified bar code numbers. The first 5 or 6 digits of a bar code are your businesses certification number for the trade market and the rest of the bar code represents the product you are selling. Im not sure about these companys just selling bar codes…for a buck… I would never sell anyone the bar codes that our company owns the rights too, besides I believe they can track all your products through the system if they own the rights to it. anyway…just my thoughts

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Jason Lee July 20, 2011 at 5:02 pm

the one UPC i ordered came in via email as expected the next day. also included in the email were the graphics for the UPC and an order form for labels. i added the UPC to Amazon for my cell phone accessory product and it took. easy enough

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Jason Lee July 20, 2011 at 2:06 am

i just bought one UPC for one product i want to sell on amazon as a professional seller. i went to nationwidebarcode.com and will let you guys know how it turns out. it was only $9. i am in the process of signing up to an amazon professional seller now.

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Kim July 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Did this barcode work for you with Amazon?

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Steve September 23, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Yes I bought several and they worked just fine.

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Barry Osandoval June 10, 2011 at 6:42 pm

If you do need your own UPC codes the least expensive way to get them is through a reseller, rather than through GS1.org. Any firm that bought a sequence of 100,000 UPC codes before the class action lawsuit in 2003 can legally resell portions of their numbers to other firms. GS1 charges $750 for 100 numbers for a year. Places like mybarcodestore.com charge $50 – $20 per UPC code and their codes are good forever. They also offer software to print those bar codes if you need it.

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Eran June 15, 2011 at 7:46 am

Is anyone know this company:
http://www.codeupc.net/services.html

They sell each UPC for $1.99 !!

I’m not sure if to buy from them or not… anyone?

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JudyG February 11, 2011 at 6:53 pm

We’re about to release a product onto Amazon and we were told we indeed needed a UPC code. Qualityupc.com was the seller most mentioned and recommended on the Amazon Seller thread I subscribe to. The companies checkout process was really easy and the UPC codes we’re instantly downloaded after we purchased. We also didn’t need to provide them with any product information, we provide it to Amazon and they link up the UPC code with our product and company.

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Dino pinch December 31, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Blasphemy trools from the UPC copanys!
Buyer beware talk with amazon first

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The Seller August 29, 2010 at 8:20 am

The thing about Amazon and their great UPC idea is that there are 1000′s of products that use the wrong UPC.

Like Gary said, they check to see that the UPC is real, they don’t care if it’s the right product.

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Phil Peretz July 2, 2010 at 6:26 pm

I’m Phil Peretz, co-owner of Nationwide Barcode. We are similar to the other two companies that are listed above. We work with a wide spectrum of clients ranging from musicians, video producers, importers, small to medium sized manufacturers, Amazon resellers, etc. We have volume pricing especially for folks who need large volumes of UPC numbers. Single barcodes are $14.95, 500 are $1.00 each and for the power user, we go down to 0.65 per UPC code. We have been verified by George Laurer, the inventor of the UPC code.
Although I have a customer service staff, feel free to have them put you directly through to me if you have any question.

http://www.nationwidebarcode.com
Toll Free: 1-888-356-7770

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Jonathan August 22, 2012 at 5:19 am

When I first launched our products on Amazon, I purchased our barcodes from Nationwide Barcode. Their current (August 2012) prices are way cheaper than what this thread reflects. I used it with no problems at all and continue to make purchases with them as I trust their product based on proven success.

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Racing Fan May 10, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Excellent points. Thanks I learned alot. I think I will use the “everything else” category. I was just really hesitant to do so before.

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Johnson February 8, 2010 at 11:48 am

Last year I put all my products on Amazon. Initially I was going to go with GS1 US but once I found out they’re like a privately owned Walmart type of company I steered in the other direction.
I think if you’re a massive company with thousands of products on the market GS1 could be beneficial. All in all I only have around 120 products and I decided to go with a smaller well known barcode company called http://www.QualityUPC.com.
The customer service was extremely helpful. There was only a one-time fee and other amazon resellers have recommended their services to me with high regards.

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Bob December 12, 2010 at 8:54 pm

QualityUPC.com is the most expensive one out there, ..

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Larry March 22, 2009 at 8:58 am

I currently sell on eBay and eCrater used replacement remote controls. I have about 800 or so and almost none of these have UPC numbers since they were part of a original system (e.g. Television with remote). The UPC if available is for the Television but not the remote control by itself. How can I sell these on Amazon?

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Steve March 22, 2009 at 10:04 am

Hi Larry,
If it were me, I’d look to see if the remotes were currently available on Amazon. If they are, you can add yourself as a seller of the given item without having to create a new product detail page. Basically piggy-back on an existing listing. If the exact remotes you sell are already there, you aren’t supposed to create a new page anyway.
Steve

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Frances March 14, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Yes, the UPC Code requirement has added that extra step & cost for those of us willing to utilize Amazon for selling our products.

However, Amazon being the largest online retailer, pretty much needed to uniquely identify their products, and what better way than having bar codes on them.

If you want a simplified process & trusted source for buying your UPC Bar Codes, I’d also advise you to go with a company like Simply Barcodes – http://www.upccode.net

For further details to buying Bar Codes for Amazon you can visit their section on Amazon – http://www.upccode.net/amazon.php

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Stan Smit May 12, 2011 at 9:23 am

Another Staged Comment.

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Stephan Bachmann December 21, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I am the CEO of Simply Barcodes, Stan, and you are clearly mistaken!

UPCcode.net is one of our older websites, and I can tell you with certainty that we did not create this post. Planting fake posts is against the law. I suspect so is planting fake comments, “Stan” with no email address.

While here, I’d like to point out an inaccuracy in Frances’ post. Amazon does NOT require barcodes on your products. Amazon requires a UPC or EAN number (ISBN for books) to list your product. If you drop-ship to your customers, you DO NOT have to have an actual barcode on the item.

A barcode is only required IF Amazon is involved in the distribution/delivery of your product.

Hope this helps!

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Sylvia March 12, 2009 at 10:46 am

Hi,

Just like many others would agree, Amazon requiring UPC Codes has pretty much complicated things. The extra expense plus the additional steps that come with it.
Fortunately, I find someone with a similar scenario.

Phillip, are your products selling on Amazon? Is the process simple & were the barcodes accepted readily?

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Phillip February 28, 2009 at 2:08 am

We are a small business company that makes board games & quizzes on computer software. We sell them on Compact Discs.

We did not have the budget neither the number of different product lines that would urge us to buy from GS1.

Going by the recommendation of Garg, we fulfilled our UPC Code requirements from http://www.upccode.net
We are very happy with the customer service provided by them.

They sent us a size and format of Bar Codes that is customized for use on our CD / DVDs. Got our Bar Codes in about an hour. Furthermore they guided us on the entire process of selling on Amazon with UPC Codes.

Cheers to the content and comments on this page & thankful to the recommendation on http://www.upccode.net

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Stan Smit May 12, 2011 at 9:23 am

This comment looks staged. How fake can you get?

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Steve May 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Stan, I’m not sure what you mean by “staged,” the comment came in, I thought it was relevant, and I approved it. I have no relationship with the commentor, or the company. It’s not “fake” in any way that I’m aware of.

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Stephan Bachmann December 21, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I am the CEO of Simply Barcodes, Stan, and you are clearly mistaken!

UPCcode.net is one of our older websites, and I can tell you with certainty that we did not create this post. If we had, we would have sent the customer straight to our CD/DVD page http://www.SimplyBarcodes.net/barcode-cd-dvd.html.

Planting fake posts is against the law. I suspect so is planting fake comments, “Stan.”

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Danny February 9, 2009 at 5:26 am

ISBN is the International Standard Book Number. It is how books are catalogued and applies only to books and book-related items. Those tend to get either just an ISBN or preferably both a UPC and ISBN.

CDs and DVDs do not need a book number. No ISBN bar code is needed. CDs and DVDs should be bar coded with a standard UPC code.

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steve (yoga DVD / video) February 3, 2009 at 9:23 am

Hi,

Does anyone have advise about ISBN and UPC for my DVDs? I know amazon need UPC but would other retailers need UPC and ISBN? Why are there two numbering systems?

Thanks,

Steve

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Rohan Garg November 18, 2008 at 11:34 pm

Great article and comments! I was able to able to reach the amazon customer service and get around the UPC requirement for products within the tools and hardware category. However, most of my other products within the baby products and toys and games category required upc bar codes.

GS1 or UCC is the original agency that sells upc bar codes but one can easily obtain such official and legit upc codes from resellers like Simply Barcodes – http://www.upccode.net at a reasonable price.

I researched a lot before buying upc codes – just google ‘upc code’ and one can see a list of resellers selling upc codes at different prices ranging from $4 to $120, however, be cery careful and ask the right questions to the resellers before buying these codes.

Question to ask-
1) Did the company join the UCC prior to Aug 2002?
According to George Laurer, the inventor of UPC, there are only 4 companies in the US that are covered under the pre-August 28, 2002 UCC agreement and are subdividing their numbers. Simply Barcodes (www.upccode.net and http://www.upccode.us) being one of the company out of the original 4 that sells legit upc codes.

Caution-
Do not get sucked in with lower barcode prices ($3.99, $4.99 etc) offered by resellers since such companies might not even be in business after they run out of their alloted upc codes and you will be stuck with product recalls etc.

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Figurines July 30, 2008 at 12:03 am

I sell figurines and picture frames and was told NO EXCEPTION on HOME and GARDEN! I asked about EVERYTHING ELSE since over 2500 frames are in Everything Else and only 68 are in H & G. NOPE now way. I said what about all those frames and was told they will be allowed to sell what is currently up, BUT no new items.Even the ones up already will be taken down eventually.

I too cannot buy UPCs because my items sell for $10 to $50. The lower price items cost less than buying a UPC code for every item.

The bad news is that my items are doing so well and really selling at Christmas.

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tula July 29, 2008 at 5:10 pm

Anyone know when UPC codes first came about? I’d guess that most items dated before then would have a case for not having a UPC.

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The_Cynic July 29, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Steve and Gary, Thanks for the comments. I will checking those options out.

—–Do any of you know whether the UPC prefix rights survive after a bankruptcy? I have a friend whose company went bankrupt pre-2002 and I think he had a UPC prefix.

It may be possible to appropriate a UPC prefix from a pre-2002 bankrupt company. Since the pre-2002 prefixes do not require renewal, they should still be good?

Anyway, I will probably just move to the Everything Else category since Ic an make a case for uniqueness.

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Steve July 29, 2008 at 1:28 pm

@Cynic – From what I’ve seen, your collectible posters would do fine in Everything Else. There are currently over 700 items there under “vintage poster.” You can check it here: http://tinyurl.com/5udoe4

I know customer service says no exceptions to the H & G category, but for unique items, I would not hesitate to use Everything Else.

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Gary July 29, 2008 at 12:14 pm

3. you can also purchase 3rd party upc’s in bulk. to use however you like.

http://www.iwantmybarcode.com/

4. unmentionable, Amazon only looks at the checksum digit of a UPC to verify legitimacy.

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The_Cynic July 29, 2008 at 10:39 am

The upc requirement is a dealbreaker for me. I have 1400 unique items ( collectible concert posters) that are required to go in the home and garden category and thus have a upc. I spoke with amazon cs and they said no exception.

so my options are to buy a upc code registration from gs1us. cost — $750 + 200/year therafter

or
buy individual upc codes from the pre 2002 upc registratrants that are selling individual codes.
cost approx. $7 each

Not a good choice to have to make, especially when the market for my stuff on amazon is unproven compared to ebay.

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Sally September 23, 2013 at 2:06 pm

If you buy for us they will cost you only 30c per code. If you want a price for the 1400 just contact us.

Reply

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