The Online Merchants Guild wants to boost sellers’ negotiating power with Amazon, but there’s also a more pressing issue on their agenda: The potential that states might try to make merchants pay back sales taxes.
It’s not exactly a secret, but it’s probably not as obvious as it could be: When you’re buying something on Amazon, you’re not always buying that product directly from Amazon.
Instead, Amazon helps make it possible to buy from millions of third-party sellers worldwide. And some of those sellers think Amazon needs to take their work a little more seriously.
The newly announced Online Merchants Guild, which met for the first time at the PROSPER Show, an annual tradeshow for online merchants in Las Vegas, hopes to create a collective voice in negotiating with Amazon, as well as on the advocacy front.
Per a Bloomberg report, the group is coming to life at a time when many states are considering a plan to charge online merchants back taxes on years of untaxed sales—a move that turned the idea from a mere discussion point into a full-on organization.
“There has not been one single issue to galvanize Amazon sellers like the sales tax issue,” noted Chris McCabe, a onetime Amazon employee and a cofounder of the guild, in comments to the news outlet.
The guild’s newly launched website speaks to the tax issue, stating that many sellers weren’t expecting it to crop up in the way it did.
“The tax issue caught many of us by surprise in 2017, we won’t ever let that happen again,” the organization states on its website. “We will be your eyes and ears, looking for tomorrow’s challenges, and making sure we are never caught off guard again. We will also be your voice when it’s time to be heard, and your sword when it’s time to fight.”
But taxes are only one of the issues facing Amazon sellers. Another major problem is Amazon’s sheer level of control over the online retail market—according to a 2016 Seattle Times story, more than 2 million merchants counted themselves members of the Amazon Marketplace program, and the company added another 300,000 small business partners in 2017, per Bloomberg.
That’s an immense level of control in the hands of one company, and often vendors have little say when the company changes its rate structure. For its part, Amazon has emphasized that it works hard to keep the communication lines open with its many merchants, even considering the size of its network.
“We have large teams dedicated to helping sellers, many of them small businesses,” Amazon told Bloomberg in a statement. “We interact with sellers thousands of times a day through a variety of channels and will continue to make sure we maintain that open dialogue.”
The new group also plans to offer a variety of member benefits, including volume discounts and preferred rates on necessary services. Member dues are determined by a merchant’s revenue.