You don’t always know when you might be hit with a dreaded suspension email. Do you know what to do when you are? Should you tackle this yourself or get help right away?
Whether or not you decide to appeal and resolve an Amazon account suspension yourself, understand the right questions to ask before you move forward. Heading off down the wrong path early on could cripple your ability to put a well-written, comprehensive Plan of Action in front of the right people at Seller Performance. Don’t count on an escalation to pull you through if you make early mistakes, especially during Q4. Replies to appeals typically take longer during peak times. Investigators looking at overflowing email queues feel pressure to read appeals quickly and decide your fate in an eyeblink. Do you really want to be offline and out of luck any longer than you have to?
What’s going on right now that may pose a threat to my Amazon account?
Make sure you stay tuned throughout Q4 for the trendy causes of account closures. If you’re caught in one of the crackdowns Seller Performance teams use during peak holiday, you’ll need to understand the Best Practices to appeal your suspension and get reinstated quickly.
Here are my current top five of causes of account suspensions as Q4 gets underway:
1. ASIN variation misuse and other listing violations
Let’s talk trends. Most recently, I had dozens of sellers suspended for ASIN variation misuse contact me. Some of them have been previously warned for creating errant variations, so Seller Performance actually moved them straight to “blocked account” status. That means they don’t have the traditional 17 days to submit an acceptable Plan of Action. They’re closed, at least until they appeal successfully and prove they should be allowed back on. Otherwise, they simply get their funds on the appropriate date.
In my experience, most sellers get suspended for this for one of two reasons.
- They’re trying to get their products listed in as many places as possible to increase sales, and they thought “everyone is doing this” so the listing violation won’t be enforced.
- They had no idea they were violating anything, and they may not have even known the difference between a parent and Child ASIN. In fact, they may have offloaded this crucial listing responsibility to someone at their company untrained in proper ASIN variation creation.
Either way, both kinds of mistaken approaches wind up in the same place, account suspensions. Amazon’s not much interested in intention most of the time. They care about the mistake, not why it happened.
If you’re unsure how child ASINs can and cannot be used, and what criteria are allowed per each category for accepted variations (size, color, quantity, etc) then find an expert who can review these for you, before you do them. Make sure you know the rules and if anything is unclear, don’t go to Seller Support! They may or may not know listing policies. Find an expert who understands these matters and how they’re enforced, too.
2. Sales rank and review manipulation
Abuse teams are likely to ramp up all enforcement activity in Q4 to make sure sellers facing anti-competitive behavior experience few obstacles to boosting sales. Given the amount of warnings seller constantly see about review manipulation and sales rank tricks, we expect Amazon to make reinstatement tough for any seller suspended for making use of black hat tactics. Even the use of certain wording in your emails to buyers could lump you in with groups of intentional abusers. In the end, your intentions don’t matter so much. The nature of the violations and the quality of your Plan of Action will determine whether or not you hop back into Q4 sales, or hop back in at all.
If you don’t plan to play by the rules and enjoy daring Amazon to take action, good luck! They receive hundreds or thousands of reports of policy abuse every day, and they’ll eventually catch up to most of them and act. If you want to roll the dice that today’s chaos will continue through Q4, understand that you’re gambling with the fate of your Amazon business. If things go wrong, don’t blame anyone else and definitely don’t expect any sympathy from Amazon.
3. Abusing reporting rights owner infringements
Don’t play games with Notice claims of infringement teams. If you’re a private label seller and hijackers try to take over your listing every time you turn around, then by all means chase away these attackers. Naturally, if you’re brand registered and you face interloping sellers pushing counterfeit versions of your product, you need to conduct the expected test buys and report the abuse to Amazon as soon as possible. You’re well within your rights to protect yourself at all costs, especially on a marketplace rife with abuse and erroneous actions by catalog and Captive teams on a regular basis.
On the other hand, if you’re a 3P reseller with pretensions to protect the brands you resell by submitting Notice claims on their behalf, or if you’re making changes to listings that you should not even consider doing without proper legal guidance, you are much more likely to get suspended these days. Numerous sellers have solicited help from (or been pitched to by) unscrupulous law firms with an interest in reporting other 3P sellers for “warranty absent” claims of materially different product. These are meant to masquerade as Intellectual Property or other rights owner infringements. However, they can be disputed and turned back by the sellers targeted with a properly composted Notice dispute. If (and more often when) Amazon comes looking for you for submitting bad infringement claims, you’ll wish you never tried to report competitors for this.
Amazon considers bad Notices to be anti-competitive and it creates more work for them, more legal liability and more headaches. Know what you’re doing, or don’t do any of it.
4. Performance metrics. Don’t ship late or you’re auto-suspended by Holiday War Teams!
Performance metric targets must be met during the holidays or you risk a quick suspension and POA request. For example, late shipment rates above 4% routinely result in automated suspensions during Q4. Remember all of this when you double-check how well your systems are working.
Another big no-no is cancelling batches of orders if you can’t fulfill them for some reason; stockouts, price errors where you’d need to take a loss in order to honor the orders, or anything remotely similar. It’s always better to take the financial hit of a pricey mistake than to absorb the metrics damage.
They don’t call them Holiday War Teams for fun. Amazon takes groups of sellers missing metrics and suspend them. If your account is flagged, they either automatically suspend or manually suspend after a quick look around. If you have a glitch or technical blip and you don’t email Seller Performance to explain it, expect to write up the same info later on, once you’re suspended, in a full-blown POA.
And make sure you reply to buyers within a reasonable handful of hours. Missing buyer responses during Q4 often leads to rapid complaints to Customer Service about you. Once that happens, they go straight over to my former teams. Believe me, you don’t want that to happen.
5. Ignoring performance notifications
What do you do when you get a performance notification covering buyer complaints of inauthentic products, or buyer item quality and condition complaints? Do you ignore it and move on? STOP! Item quality matters! If enough of these come in, you lose the account.
Don’t ignore Performance Notifications. The best and most reliable way to guarantee an account suspension is to avoid responding to crucial performance notifications.
Make sure you review the issue that prompted a warning and show Amazon what you have done to fix the problem. If you want to know the right way to do this, we can show you how Amazon reviews accounts, and how they want you to communicate with them.
If the unthinkable happens, and I get suspended, how do I move forward?
Make a decision early on if you think you can tackle the appeal, based on a few key factors:
1. Honestly assess your past familiarity or knowledge of the Plan of Action writing process.
Have you done this before and succeeded with a minimum of back and forth? If you have reinstated ASINs with a POA involving the same presentations of effective proactive measures, then it’s probably worth one shot to get your account back.
But gauge the situation. Did Amazon specify the suspension causes enough for you to decide if your past efforts relate to this kind of issue? Or is this a fundamentally separate deal, requiring a proper diagnostic of causes and then a different approach towards resolution? Answer these types of tough questions early and often, before you even decide upon a strategy.
2. If you’re doing this yourself, do you have a plan of attack to generate a solid plan of action?
Are you basing your plan on reliable resources and materials out there in Amazonland, or past experience? Are you folding any preconceived notions of the Amazon suspension process into a personal bias about how the process SHOULD work?
3. Who is best equipped to help me with this kind of suspension.
Make sure you vet any Amazon consultants before you let them take a crack at your appeal. Making the wrong decision now could not only lose you money in consulting fees, it could also risk your chances of getting back on period. Some questions to ask yourself:
- If it’s legal-based, Do I need a lawyer to reach out to a rights owner to try to resolve the matter or can I try that myself? If you do need an attorney to work on a legal issue, do you know a reliable one? See the above link to pre-vet an attorney before you let them near your account.
- If it is an issue with Seller Performance teams, do I know what the current state of those teams is in Q4? How fast are they replying and are they going to ask me for the same info over and over until I escalate? Do I know how to diagnose the true causes and identify them to Amazon’s satisfaction, knowing well the investigator may skip my POA entirely if he or she feels I missed the mark? Am I able to state clearly how my actions will prevent future item quality complaints or my account performance problems?
As a former Amazonian working on the Seller Performance team, I’ve put together a 4-step standard operating procedure to follow when writing your POA. Or I can take over your appeal for you. Whether you decide to do it yourself, or want to hire an expert, make sure you get the right help.