HFSS Advertising Ban - Amazon are WRONG


#1

The HFSS regulations came into force on 1st October and since then, and even the day before, we have watched many of our products advertising turn off as they are in the affected categories. In the campaigns, they show as ‘Not Approved’ with the message ‘Your ad has been suspended as it does not satisfy ad policy requirements.’

We have uploaded all of the necessary HFSS data that is required, which all show as being live on the backend of the detail pages.

After opening a case with Advertising Support as to why our products were showing this message, they said
“Following a change in regulation the advertising and promotion of products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) is now prohibited in this locale. Please remove any products in this category from your ad.”

There are 2 reasons as to why their reasoning is wrong.

  1. As per the UK governments update as per the link below, “The restrictions banning HFSS adverts on TV before 9pm and paid-for adverts online will also be paused for a year, meaning they come into force January 2024”
    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-delays-restrictions-on-multibuy-deals-and-advertising-on-tv-and-online
    Amazon even reference and link to this themselves in their own HFSS guidance page

  2. You just have to type in ‘chocolate’ or ‘sweets’ and you will see plenty of listings being sold by Amazon being advertised. So either Amazon are breaking the law and continuing to advertise, or they are unfairly blocking third party sellers from advertising while they continue to…

The only regulations that have come into force since the 1st October is the restriction on the placement of listings on homepages, payment pages, pop ups etc, NOT a blanket advertising ban.

Therefore, I think it is fair to conclude that Amazon have messed up big time here and need to fix this ASAP. Does anyone from their teams actually read the forums anymore to see this and do something about it??


#2

I can’t disagree with you. Furthermore, it isn’t just promotional activity that is no longer available. We have top selling sku’s that have vanished from page 1 and in some instances do not appear at all. We have Amazons Choice accreditations on our products too, on Vegan Cookies for instance, yet when you click the link, we do not show. We have one product that has been given a HFSS status of “less healthy” (which it is) on the listing, but ahead of us uploading any info, that now appears on P1, yet sells next to nothing compared to the ASINS that have vanished. We have a product that was #9 in grocery that is now #790, and clearly in freefall. In addition, at least on the spreadhseets that we downloaded, there is no facility to upload data for a third party brand, only for the ones you own yourselves. The reason I am posting at 6.30 am is that I have been awake all night wondering how we will now sell thousands of seasonal items that we have produced.


#3

I think the issue that you might have with top selling products vanishing from page 1, even with the Amazons Choice badge is that the search terms they have been on page 1 for are not seen as being related to what the customer is searching for, which is now in the regulations which came into force 1st October. I think I know which product of yours you are talking about, and can see that it was high up for ‘retirement gifts’ (actually bought 1 myself previously) but as the customer has not actually searched for ‘sweets’, then the listing is not allowed to appear in the customers search results.

I completely empathise with you about all of this and being up early to try and resolve this. Already spent at least 5 hours over yesterday and this morning trying to get this resolved, write detailed cases etc. at our busiest time of year.

It is incredibly frustrating when we have read the guidance, acted accordingly by uploading HFSS status and knowing that advertising would not be restricted, so have bought stock according to our predictions with advertising running, but now that has been pulled away from us completely unfairly and against government legislation and Amazons own actions (of advertising products they sell).


#4

Well the guidance is pretty straightforward and its clear that, if you sell anything like confectionery or biscuits, that your sku’s are going to be “less healthy”. That’s not great but it is what it is and we were prepared for that, just as you were, but this is a whole new nightmare, that I just cannot see being fixed. We do sell the retirement item, we have an exclusivity contract as it goes, but that cannot be policed, so multiple sellers remain - we cant upload any HFSS data though, because we’re not the brandowner so who knows what will happen to that listing. The items I was referring to are a brand of cookies that we have - you can’t find them anymore. One of these sku’s has previously been #1 in the whole category and was expected to be again this Christmas due to it’s gift appeal. Last Christmas was dreadful, but we have produced to that level = 30k units and now it looks like we will sell about 136. How can anyone climb the rankings now with an existing product if there is no way of gaining visibility, vouchers aside ? In addition, with NPD, how would you ever get anywhere on here ? We have NPD scheduled, but you will launch on P95 and stay there wouldn’t you, if nothing changes ? It all sounds like insanity, but I know this platform too well and I just do not see anything getting fixed. I don’t think that amazon have taken this approach because they have misunderstood the legislation, surely ? They have all the resources in the world available to them. I wish you luck anyway and hope that somehow very soon, this gets resolved.


#5

Yes exactly, I think then a lot of sellers who have confectionery, biscuits etc won’t have bothered uploading the status of each of their products as it would automatically be marked as ‘Less Healthy’, as per Amazons guidance (we did upload the status for each of ours though).

I think Amazon have understood the guidance (at least you would hope so!), they just haven’t implemented it correctly and their systems aren’t setup correctly. You can still find sweets and chocolate in search results for search terms like ‘gifts for men’ as well…

If you go back to your cases and copy and paste what I put in my initial post, from the bit that says 'There are 2 reasons why this is wrong…" down to the end of the 2nd reason, they will come back saying that they have escalated the case to their internal department.

Like I say, I believe that if many communications channel are pushed with this obvious contradiction, somebody will have to wake up and take action.


#6

I have just been onto a few of the supermarkets sites, 3 of them to be precise. They all have shots of HFSS restricted products on their homepage - pizza, soft drinks, fries etc and and the 2nd largest discounter, who have a food offers section, have virtually nothing but HFSS products on offer, Chocolate Muffins, Chocolate Bars, Crepes, Chocolate Croissants, Caramel Bars et al. Yet we can no longer advertise them or sell any volume. The legislation itself is madness. I eat treats, but I also spend 3 hours a week in the gym and cycle 40 miles. Everything in life works when there is balance, but on here balance doesn’t exist. Ultimately, this has to affect Amazons sales of HFSS items, especially at Christmas. At that point, they will possibly do something, but it could be too late. Of all the years this wasn’t needed, it’s this one.


#7

If you go back to your cases and copy and paste what I put in my initial post, from the bit that says 'There are 2 reasons why this is wrong…" down to the end of the 2nd reason, they will come back saying that they have escalated the case to their internal department.

I will get that done this morning for sure


#8

While I completely agree with you about other retailers etc, that is more of an issue for the regulators to look into and take action accordingly.

Again, like you say, the legislation itself is a bit mad, but there is nothing we can really do about that. Only the big manufacturers and brands can do something to influence it, which I believe they have with regards to the delay on some parts of it. I can’t see Amazon themselves doing anything about the legislation, apart from following it, as I expect their sales on HFSS are miniscule compared to their overall sales.

What they need to be doing though is implementing it properly, as per the guidance, which at this point in time, they are not.


#9

No, I’m pretty sure they’re following the law - the legislation allows what they’re are doing I believe, especially in the case of the #2 value retailer or discounter. Ironically, I have just clicked onto Morrisons (Prime via Amazon) and HFSS items appear on the homepage, including a leading branded confectionery item, featured at £1.25 from £2.39. If either of us sold the same item on amazon, would we be able to do this ? You couldn’t make it up !


#10

By the way, is there a “discount by Amazon” offer on any of your HFSS listings, Buy 4 Save 5% ? We have that on all of ours and that is a multibuy, albeit not a very rich one ? How can that be ? OK, I accept that no one can now find our listings, but if that’s not a contradiction of a ban on promotions, I’m not sure I have ever seen one. I’m onto SS by phone right now, and to be fair to them, they do try to help, but unfortunately it is me telling them what is happening as opposed to the other way around.


#11

The rules that have been brought in since 1st October are only to do with the locations and placement of products.

The rule about multibuy offers, deals etc has been delayed a year until October 2023, with the advertising ban not coming in until January 2024.


#12

The rule about multibuy offers, deals etc has been delayed a year until October 2023, with the advertising ban not coming in until January 2024.

Yes of course, but our point is that Amazon have banned us from all activity, vouchers aside ?


#13

We were well aware of this HFSS rule from amazon, and when the government announced the push back and amazon kept sending their automated HFSS e-mails I kinda knew amazon were pressing ahead regardless. I updated all our listings to show they were unhealthy but from October the advertising is still switched on and working, in fact sales are higher than ever. In all fairness we have contingency plans in place if sales drop as a result of amazons inability to implement changes on the correct date. Market places are a bit of a grey area regarding the new rules as if you have less than 50 employees then the HFSS shouldn’t effect your business and if your not using amazon for fulfilment then technically you still should be able to advertise. The other big market places haven’t implemented a thing to do with HFSS?


HFSS Regulations
#14

I am getting the same reply for a “vitamin product” with no salt, sugar or fat as an ingredient… but they are still saying HFSS regulations bla bla…


#15

I reached out to Seller Support to ask them specifically which government legislation they are referring to when they give the reasoning that advertising is now prohibited etc. The link they sent me is the one below, which is The Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2021/1368/made

On the surface, this might seem like the place where the legislation they are referring to is.
However, this is where they are completely WRONG.

The actual legislation regarding the Online Advertising of less healthy food and drink is actually in the Health and Care Act 2022, Part 4c, linked below.

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2022/31/schedule/18/paragraph/3

At present, the legislation says this comes into force in January 2023, but the governments press release, as linked to in the HFSS guidance page on Amazon states that this has been delayed until January 2024.

I have reached out to the legislation website to point me in the right direction of the amendment to the legislation as I am struggling to find it on the website.

Therefore, it is safe to say that what Amazon have done is full of holes and wouldn’t stand up in a court of law I feel.

How such a thing can happen like this in a company the size of Amazon is beyond me


#16

i have a “healthy” product which im not allowed to advertise, the same support agent has just told me (five times)

“Following a change in regulation the advertising and promotion of products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) is now prohibited in this locale. Please remove any products in this category from your ad.”

i think theyre in a right mess with it


#17

Yes I agree that something which Government have officially stated that it is being implemented Jan 2024 but for some reason Amazon have started doing it now and that too without proper measures as its a complete mess.


#18

Just posted this on another thread.

If you tried your best to deal with seller support and have got no where after many attempts, reach out to managingdirector@amazon.co.uk and tell them. They would be interested to know that Amazon is losing out on £100,000’s of pounds of advertising and FBA revenue because their staff does not know how to apply this regulation properly. More people that can contact them with this issue, the better, as they might realise the scale of the problem and incompetence of their staff (though this they might already know).

We got a final conclusion email today morning telling us that the vitamin pills we sell are banned as per HFSS. They actually wrote “after through investigation we have concluded your vitamin capsules are banned as per HFSS”

So we have sent a long email to the Managing Director email. This should be only used after you have done everything you could with seller support, or they will just completely ignore the email.


#19

_ have seen that the HFSS compliance tabs are now available on all my products this morning whereas they were not yesterday. Hopeful that the out of scope one works (my products are out of scope)


#20

Thank you for the heads up on this, we are seeing this too on some of our products that did not have these fields either. Advertising is still not fixed, but I’m guessing this is part of the process of fixing it all. The whole implementation of this has been a total shambles. Some people are going to have a lot of explaining to do within Amazon I think !