I recently experienced an issue using the Amazon Product Advertising API (formerly the Amazon Associates Web Service). I was getting a “403 Forbidden” error for what seemed like a normal request.

I am using the sample C# code provided here, along with the Amazon.ECS library (which apparently is no longer supported by Amazon).

I was doing an ItemSearchRequest, with a search term of “black swan”.

I tracked the error down to the encoding of the search terms. They were being passed with the URL encoding, so the querystring became “black+swan”. This is apparently no longer supported — you must use percent-style encoding. By using “black%20swan” instead, it worked.

This is caused by a bug in the sample code at the link above. Line 142 of SignedRequestHelper.cs reads: str.Replace("'", "%27").Replace("(", "%28").Replace(")", "%29") .Replace("*", "%2A").Replace("!", "%21").Replace("%7e", "~").Replace("+", "%20");

It needs to read: str = str.Replace("'", "%27").Replace("(", "%28").Replace(")", "%29") .Replace("*", "%2A").Replace("!", "%21").Replace("%7e", "~").Replace("+", "%20");

Someone forgot that strings are immutable!

By the way, I was making changes because Amazon has a new security requirement for this API. If you would like some help/code in adapting to the updated API, drop me a note.

While I’m in the neighborhood, I also had to deal with a “400 Bad Request” error.

Part of the new API authentication scheme is a timestamp. The clock on my server had fallen quite a ways behind — it hadn’t been synced in a while. This resulted in an inaccurate timestamp on the request, and Amazon rejected it.

After correcting the server’s clock, it worked fine.