Your Amazon account was suspended and you are now in panic mode. Selling on Amazon is an important revenue stream for you and you now feel betrayed by the company you trusted for so long. This is especially frustrating since there is no one at Amazon who will pick up the phone to discuss this and every day that goes by you are losing money. Take a deep breath and continue reading this post from start to finish – I will be covering everything you need to know about Amazon suspensions and how to deal with them.
Let’s start by talking about the different levels of Amazon suspensions. There are 3 states or stages of the suspension process that a third party seller can be in:
- Suspended – In this case, you are able to appeal your suspension status and need to plan your course of action
- Denied – In this instance your appeal was unsuccessful but you are able to submit a revised course of action to Amazon
- Banned – Means game over. Amazon has reviewed multiple appeals you have made and has decided against you.
The main causes for suspension
Amazon usually penalizes its sellers for three main reasons:
- Performance – Your performance numbers and/or ratings have dipped or worse dived recently. Amazon is not going to want a seller on their site with bad performance – they want to provide the best customer service possible. Customer retention is 1,000 times more important to them than a replaceable seller.
- Policy violations – If Amazon believes or has conclusive evidence that you have violated their policies then you are looking at a suspension. Amazon owns and regulates this marketplace and you have to play by their rules.
- Restricted products – Amazon has a clear list of products which are restricted or which need special approval in order to sell. If you have circumvented and/or ignored these guidelines even if it was by accident, you are going to be suspended. Remember that negligence, even in a court of law does not exempt you from knowing and abiding by the law.
Preemptive measures to prevent Amazon suspension
First of all, just like in your daily life, preventative measures always beat waiting for something bad to happen and then looking for a remedy.
The three big myths Amazon sellers buy into are:
- I am too big to fail – People approach Amazon as if they were the US government who will not let Bank of America fail in a recession. Amazon does not operate like that and there is no such thing as ‘too big to fail’. If there are customer complaints or problems with the quality of your items for example it does not matter how much money you bring in, you are out!
- Being suspended more than once means there is no way back – This too is false. Amazon allows you to deviate from the path but if you are in control and are constantly watching your metrics and subsequently detect an anomaly you can quickly correct course. Simultaneously you should update Amazon that you are taking corrective measures – this is called ‘ A Plan of Action’ (more on this later on).
- I am a good seller – Nothing will happen to me – Bad things happen to good people, this is just a fact of life and of Amazon. A suspension may occur to a perfect seller for a number of reasons:
- A client who is determined on sabotaging you
- Jealous competitors
- Unintentionally not replying messages pertaining to listings which you have blocked including products you no longer sell
So what preventative measures can you take ?
Here are some of my top tips on how to prevent yourself from getting into trouble with Amazon in the first place:
- Keep your customers happy – We all know the phrase in business ‘the customer is always right’ and ‘always keep the customer happy’. This is 100% true especially when on a website with an almost immediate feedback loop. In order to do this, make sure to:
- Check your Amazon reports on a regular basis
- Keep an eye out for returns and negative feedback and try to figure out what went wrong and how you can fix it
- Watch out for ‘imperfect order’ and A-Z claims (where Amazon guarantees to refund a customer’s money including shipping and handling costs)
- Make sure that you ship on time and package your items carefully. Late or broken products can influence your chances of winning the Buy Box
- Make sure your shipping, refunds and returns policies are fair in order to avoid angry customers
- Ensure that everything is kosher –
- Customers can try and claim that you sold them a counterfeit. That is why you need to ask Amazon to add an annotation to your account that your ASINs are authentic. Additional measures you should take include, keeping a picture of each and every item as well as its ASIN or barcode. Additionally, consider using the Amazon app to scan in each and every item.
- Do not sell generic products under your own private label. If your product is indeed unique then let Amazon and customers know what differentiates your item from your competition.
- The Amazon App – Speaking about the Amazon App – Download it! The two best features are:
- Getting your notifications wherever you are and being able to respond to clients queries, hesitations and problems ASAP
- Like I mentioned above, scanning potential products and authenticating existing
4. Use best practices to decrease complaints –
- This may include using Fulfillment by Amazon or FBA which is a service Amazon provides – they take care of shipping, returns as well as customer service in exchange for a fee. How can Amazon blame you if they are responsible for the trickiest customer service aspects of your eCommerce business ?
- Accept returns, especially when they are negligible and in return ask customers for positive feedback. After all you provided them with the best service possible – a full refund!
- Be very careful when buying wholesale from suppliers especially from China. Be certain that these products are original and not damaged. Get recommendations so that you choose the right manufacturer to make your products – you don’t want to take a hit for someone else’s negligence
- Don’t even consider selling knockoffs or counterfeits just in order to make some quick money – it is seriously not worth it !
Ok, So you gave it your all and tried your hardest but somehow, somewhere you made a mistake. This means that you now need a Plan of Action. The first step is figuring out where you went wrong.
Start by checking your ‘Performance Notifications’ in Seller Central. Additionally you will receive a message from Amazon saying that ‘Your Amazon selling privileges have been removed’, followed by a list of products represented by their ASIN’s which Amazon believes are in direct violation of their policies. If the suspension is not connected directly with a policy violation but is rather quality/performance based then your notification will say that the suspension is due to ‘buyer complaints regarding the condition or description of items you sent them’.
Continue your efforts by:
- Going over all your present and previous ASINs, especially those which have received previous policy warnings
- Read over your suspension notice carefully and reference Amazon’s policies and agreement pages as needed
- Thoroughly check your Seller Central performance metrics
- If you still have access to your account, open a ‘ticket’ in order to further clarify the events leading up to your suspension. Please note that a ‘ticket’ is not the appeal itself but a way for you to communicate with Amazon and be able to clarify the circumstances of your suspension.
- Write an appeal otherwise known as a Plan of Action to Amazon in which you:
- Acknowledge and take responsibility for the damage done to customers! This is an extremely important point – Amazon needs to know that you understand the problem and are taking full responsibility.
- Reaffirm that you are committed to providing the best customer service possible and understand that it is a privilege to sell on Amazon
- Criticize yourself and your actions – not Amazon or your customers!
- Precisely identify your shortcomings and offer clear and actionable solutions. For example if your products arrive late to customers consider telling Amazon that you now plan to transfer over to FBA and thus solve this issue head-on
- When you are done and ready to submit your appeal go to ‘Performance Notification’ > Click on your suspension notice > click ‘appeal’ > submit your Plan of Action
- Wait for a response from Amazon – Do note that Amazon officially claims to give a response within 48 hours but in practice many sellers report that it can take as long as 60 days and even longer in some cases.
Do not be impulsive and click ‘appeal’ straight away, rather do your homework as I mentioned above and lay out a clear plan – you have to seriously advocate for yourself.
Here are my top tips for creating the best possible Plan of Action:
- Be professional and don’t start criticizing Amazon or customers. No sob stories either
- Keep it simple and stick to the facts. Try focussing on policy issues and not metrics
- Use a clear format such as bullets or numbers and provide a solution next to every issue
- Use a sharp and to the point introduction which sums up the issue and your concrete solution
- Ensure that your plan of action includes as many facts as possible and addresses all relevant points. If you miss something, Amazon will take time to reply, asking for the missing information and ultimately prolong the process to your detriment
Plan of Action Template
If you are still having issues getting started or trying to figure out how to approach this issue, don’t worry, you are not alone. Many people are overwhelmed by what has happened to them. That is why I am providing you with a template you can use to start writing your appeal. Do keep in mind that each appeal is different and do your best to tailor this template to your specific needs:
Dear Amazon Seller Performance Team,
I want to start off by thanking you for allowing me to appeal my Amazon account suspension and would like to lay out a clear-cut Plan of Action which will include all of the issues you generously brought to my attention and how I plan on addressing each and every one of them immediately and with no delay.
1A Write the issue stated in your suspension notice.
1B Write your directly actionable/ applicable solution
2A Write the issue stated in your suspension notice.
2B Write your directly actionable/ applicable solution
[continue this list as necessary]
I want to reiterate that I am fully committed to providing the best products and customer service possible to my clients on Amazon.
I appreciate the time and effort it takes to review my case and look forward to hearing back from you soon and to working with Amazon again in the near future.
[Insert your name here]
Amazon Appeals Services
A question I hear a lot from sellers who are overwhelmed is ‘Should I use an Amazon appeals service ?’ This Makes sense, in modern America, we use professionals for everything from fitness and nutrition to taxes and even pet psychologists. But in many cases we do not need a professional – I know this may be shocking to some of you but many things you need to take care of can be done independently – this is one of them! I do not recommend paying upwards of $100 to an appeals service – you need to figure out what went wrong in your business and then write a letter to Amazon explaining how you will rectify the situation. End of story!
The lessons we can learn from our Amazon suspension or from someone else’s suspension is to:
- Play by the rules
- Enact preventative measures
- Maintain Amazon’s high standards
- Ensure customer satisfaction and that they have a positive experience with you
And finally, if you or someone you know does get reinstated, learn from your/their mistakes, learn from the past and be more proactive for a better future.
Please share your Amazon suspension stories below and let the community know if and how you were reinstated. Any actionable advice or insights would be much appreciated.