Amazon suspension; an Amazon Seller’s worst nightmare and ultimate fear. Suspensions can affect one or more of your Listings (which could be quite costly to you if it is one of your best selling products), or more importantly your entire Amazon selling Account. Losing your selling rights on Amazon can immensely impact a seller’s overall global sales and loss of gross income, depending on how long their selling privileges are revoked for.
Do not fear, Amazon sellers. There are many ways to avoid suspension. One of the most important first steps is to thoroughly read, familiarize yourself with and apply the Business Services Agreement (every Amazon Seller’s contract with Amazon) into your business plan. Nearly everything that Amazon may use to affect your account metrics or suspend your Amazon Sellers account is stated somewhere within this contact. A strong familiarity with the contract and any changes to it will enable you to proactively be on the lookout for any issues that you may run into while conducting your business. The following are some of the the most common Amazon seller suspension triggers and how to prevent them.
1. Inauthentic Complaints /Not as Advertised
One type of customer complaint that sellers will recurrently experience is inauthentic product complaints. This does not necessarily mean that the products are fake or counterfeit. They may be perfectly legitimate products. Buyers might file these complaints with the hopes to receive a refund on their purchase, or free shipping. However, they might be filed because of poor packaging, customers receiving a damaged product, a missing part or the absence of a warranty or instructions which leads a buyer to question a product’s authenticity. Although these complaints are often baseless, there are circumstances wherein the claims are legitimate and should be treated as such. If a buyer receives a product that does not 100% match its online pictures and/or description in the listing, they have a valid point and should be refunded. You would then need to promptly address this problem so as to fix it from ever happening again.
Always remember that in Amazon’s world the buyer is clearly king. Always place the buyers, ie your customers, first. If the customers are happy, Amazon is happy and in turn you and your business will be happy.
Our team has found over time that these inauthentic complaints are also often created as a means to eliminate competition on the Amazon platform, when made by other sellers. Although these complaints are baseless for the most part, this is not always the case. Therefore, each must be taken seriously and acted on immediately. Reaching out to the complainant personally (or via an attorney) is always the best way to approach an inauthentic product complaint and it is typically what Amazon instructs sellers to do. Your goal should be to try to appease the complainant in any way that you can, so that they retract their complaint with Amazon.
To reduce your inauthentic complaint feedback, be sure to properly package all your items prior to shipping to decrease the possibility of damages while in transit. You might consider using a different delivery service. You also might consider opting out of FBA so that the products you trust, your own, are not commingled with products from other sellers. Quality control over your products should start and end with you whenever possible. Inauthentic item claims must be responded to as soon as the claim is made. Having too many inauthentic item complaints can lead to immediate suspension. If suspension does arise, a professional Plan of Action (POA) will likely be necessary in order to regain an Amazon Sellers selling privileges. Your POA should state the measures to be implemented in order to improve upon your business practices and quality control. A strong POA, along with personally reaching out to each complainant are key components in regaining your Amazon seller privileges.
2. Used Sold as New
This is similar to Inauthentic Complaints outlined above. New means new. A buyer is expecting a brand new, never opened, product in its original undamaged packaging. If they receive anything else they could assume that the item is not new. Items that are repackaged or rebundled face a much higher risk of this customer complaint being made. Selling last year’s, or out of date, products can trigger this complaint. Damaged packaging often leads to this complaint as the item does not appear to be new. Again, it is your burden to know where you are sourcing your goods and to know that you are selling exactly what you are listing. You need to take control over sourcing and delivery as best you can.
3. Order Defect Rate
This is also similar to numbers 1 and 2 above. If the problem is within your control, fix it asap. This would include issuing prompt refunds and making changes to insure that the errors stop. You should consider removing the item from your sales inventory if problems persist. If the problems are caused by outside vendors, such as the manufacturer or shipper, change those companies asap as their actions are negatively affecting your company’s reputation and sales.
4. Related or Multiple Accounts
Amazon Sellers often look to operate multiple accounts for many different reasons. Some may be trying to open a new account when they cannot get a suspended Amazon Seller account reinstated, while others may be trying to maximize their sales volume across the platform, or delineate different products they sell by separate accounts. Be warned that opening multiple seller accounts requires prior approval from Amazon. Without that approval, sellers put themselves at risk of immediate suspension should Amazon detect that they are operating multiple accounts. Making matters worse, related account suspensions are some of the hardest to overcome on the Amazon platform.
Often when an Amazon seller receives the dreaded suspension notification, panic ensues and rational thought leaves the premises. Sometimes sellers open additional accounts without asking for permission, as a result of their post suspension frenzied state of mind. This ultimately lands the Amazon Seller in a deep hole that can be nearly impossible to crawl out of. If an additional account is opened and Amazon is able to detect it, the new account is shut down immediately. Not only is the second account shut down, but the chance for reinstatement of the original account decreases tremendously.
Amazon sellers should refrain from making this common mistake. Amazon’s Prohibited Sellers Activities Page clearly states “operating and maintaining multiple seller central accounts is prohibited. If you have a legitimate business need for a second account, you can apply for an exception to this policy.”
Although many sellers do have a legitimate business need for a second account, they fail to obtain permission through the proper procedures. Amazon continuously monitors all seller accounts and will detect linked accounts.
The computer used (IP address), bank information, Tax ID, email address, physical address or first and last name of the seller are all possible factors that can lead to the detection of linked accounts. It may take more time, but strictly following Amazon’s procedures is clearly in the best interest of the seller and their business.
5. Safety Issues
If a customer has a negative experience caused by using one of your products they likely will report the negative experience. Amazon takes personal safety issues very seriously. Such issues often arise with the use of products within the high selling beauty/cosmetics category. If such products are old/expired or in poor condition when they arrive it could be a safety concern. Misuse of products also can raise safety concerns.
The best way to address these potential complaints before they arise if to be vigilant in your packaging and delivery methods and to include clear instructions on how to properly and safely use your products. You need to be clear in the products use, dosage, quantity etc. If Safety Warnings are needed, they need to be included with the product.
6. Restricted Items
Amazon does not allow all items to be sold. There are restricted items in each category. You need to check what Amazon allows and what it does not. Although items might be authorized by a government (for example having FDA approval in the U.S.) does NOT mean that Amazon approves its sale on their platform. Sometimes Amazon is stricter than the law.
The easy way to avoid this is to be vigilant in reviewing your products and Amazon’s policies before listing any products. If you determine that something is not allowed by Amazon policies, but see that others are selling it, do not be fooled. Others might just be getting lucky. This likely is short term luck. It is not worth the risk and costs of listing an item that simply is not allowed to be listed.
7. Intellectual Property Issues
Intellectual property (IP) complaints are one of the leading causes for seller suspensions. IP law encompasses the enforcement of patents, copyrights and trade dress/ trademarks. IP complaints are made every day against sellers, mainly because they are an efficient and effective way to eliminate seller competition.
Often, the intellectual complaints made on the Amazon platform are baseless. However, they should still be responded to as soon as possible. If Amazon sellers ignore these IP complaints, they may attempt to log onto their seller account one day to find that their selling privileges have been removed. Generally, when an IP complaint is filed, the procedure is as follows: the rights owner makes the initial complaint, Amazon notifies the seller that an infringement complaint has been made, removes the listing, and instructs the seller to contact the complainant with the intent to have the complaint retracted.
For Amazon Sellers who have received multiple IP complaints, the team at Amazon Sellers Lawyer recommends you remove the listing(s) immediately after receiving the notification (if Amazon has not done so already). If you notice that the IP complaints are being made by one specific brand, take down all listings under that brand until the matter has been resolved. It is in an Amazon seller’s best interest to proactively address IP complaints as they are received.
Another common IP claim that many sellers unfortunately run into is Copyright infringement. Copyright infringement is when an individual uses the text or images that legally belong to someone else. Sellers unknowingly use copyrighted images on their product listings, leading to an infringement notice from Amazon’s notice dispute team. To avoid this, be sure to obtain permission prior to using any product images for your Amazon listings/ASINs. In order to prevent Copyright infringement complaints, perform thorough research prior to posting any images on your seller account. The best practice is write your own text and use your own photographs.
Intellectual property complaints are not easily resolved, since the rights owner must be contacted directly and convinced to retract their infringement complaint with Amazon’s notice dispute team. This can often be a challenge for Amazon sellers. If working with the rights owner towards a resolution proves to be difficult, legal backing often helps get prompt positive results.
8. Review Manipulation (applies to both negative and positive reviews)
A somewhat newer cause for suspension concern is review manipulation. Unscrupulous competitors can flood your listing with negative reviews in order to effect your sales and Amazon metrics. The best defense against this is a good offense. If other sellers do this, try to track them down and politely let them know that they are putting their own seller account in peril by their bad acts. Although it can often be hard to find the perpetrators, sometimes a pattern of where the complaints are coming from (possibly near a competitor’s address?) can be helpful. You need to timely advise Amazon that you feel the negative reviews are baseless so that they can internally review the situation
Less intuitively, positive reviews (if they are not legitimate) can also be bad for you. If your family, friends and employees etc are leaving positive reviews just to try to help you, Amazon will treat these as fake and penalize you. The best way to avoid this is to be ethical in your business practices. Do not make up positive reviews but rather run a sound business which will elicit legitimate positive feedback organically.
9. Amazon Seller Account Hackers
Technology has become a prevalent part of today’s society and new risk factors have come into play that may not have ever been a worry prior to the advancement of e-commerce and the explosion of the Amazon platform. As a result of the internet taking over practically everything, Amazon Account hacking has become a top concern for Amazon Sellers.
Private and personal information can be found all over the internet, and it is critical that any and all steps necessary are taken to protect that information. Hackers are now targeting Amazon seller accounts. Hacking can lead to immediate suspension of seller accounts, by no fault of the seller, but suspension nonetheless. In the cases we see at Amazon Sellers Lawyer, hackers break into the Amazon seller account, alter the bank account information and then transfer the Amazon Seller’s funds to overseas bank accounts.
Fortunately, there are precautions Amazon Sellers can take to prevent hackers from accessing their account information. The initial step is to create some type of “e-security” measure, such as initiating a 2-step verification process for the seller account. This will result in a few extra moments of your time when logging into your seller account, but it is undoubtedly worth the extra effort. Simple steps like making stronger passwords should be taken. Another thing to be wary of is using Wi-Fi in public places, or logging into your account from multiple devices. This opens the doorway to hackers and can easily be avoided.
If you do experience a hacking on your Amazon Seller account, please do not get frustrated with Amazon for placing a hold on your funds. This measure is put in place only to protect your capital, while Amazon reviews the matter further.
I include this mainly to remind Amazon Sellers to remain vigilant. We do not know what might be the new flavor in suspensions in the future. Competitors are always trying to find an angle to beat the competition. This could lead to creative ways to target the selling potential of Amazon. If this causes confusion for Amazon or its customers, accounts will be suspended until the confusion is cleared up. Be proactive and always communicate with Amazon if you are concerned about anything. Lastly, always remain up to date on the changing Amazon Policies and Guidelines, as well as any new developments or shifting trends in the e-commerce world. A well run business is always very well informed and one step ahead.
The Amazon platform can often be difficult to navigate for Amazon Sellers, especially as Amazon constantly alters and updates their policies and guidelines. While the Amazon platform provides one of, if not the greatest e-commerce opportunities ever for third-party sellers, the use of the platform requires strict adherence to Amazon’s policies as well as the law. Always remember to put the customer first. Stress customer service! If you are ever suspended, work backwards from the position of what your customer wants. If a difficulty arises for an Amazon seller, handling the issue should be dealt with experience and reason. Our team at Amazon Sellers Lawyer has both the knowledge and experience to guide sellers down the road to reinstatement.