Preventing Amazon Account Suspensions: What do Sellers Need to Know?
The last thing any Amazon seller needs right now (or ever, really) is the performance notification indicating an acceptable POA (Plan of Action) is needed to maintain your seller account privileges. Account Health Services says they’ll call you within the next 24 hours to discuss it, but rarely does that call result in anything other than basic background information about your account review. Amazon’s email asking for an acceptable POA shows up shortly thereafter, and you need to make it good enough to stave off the account suspension.
Seller Performance is taking a long time to reply to appeals due partially to COVID-19, but let’s face it, they took a long time to reply previously, too. Investigators who review your appeals appear stretched to the limit. Email queues fill up with reinstatement appeals that Amazon teams may not even review properly. Often, you need to send them in multiple times just to get a reply. Given that reality, it means each seller must limit the amount of mistakes they make.
Below, I cover how you can avoid getting stuck waiting for an Amazon team to review a Plan of Action and how to get them to respond positively. Make sure you stay on top of your account management game, and fend off threats as they come up. Why endure a debilitating account suspension if you can take immediate action now to avoid one?
What are Current Account Suspension Trends I Need to Pay Attention to?
We help Amazon sellers with reinstatement needs day in and day out, so we’re aware of account suspension trends. We also understand how to remedy suspension causes once you’ve identified them. Some months, Intellectual Property infringement claims flood through the Amazon email queues. Other months, item condition and quality complaints become the focus of enforcement teams. Or, we see a rise in policy violation-based account suspensions. You’ll want to stay on top of where account suspensions are coming from and prepare how to appeal them properly. Failing to notice a threat before a manual investigation by Seller Performance usually leads to a suspension that could have been prevented.
Where do you begin? First, stay on top of all performance notifications and determine early which ones you need to counter with responses, especially related to policy violations and blocked listings. Remember, managing an Amazon account isn’t an ordinary job. Amazon expects the best from each seller, every time. They demand strict adherence to policy and won’t tolerate vague, general statements about what you’re trying to improve. So give solid details.
Review Manipulation Remains a Hot Topic
Product Review Abuse (PRA) enforcement teams receive numerous contacts every day asking them to delete suspicious positive or negative reviews. As most sellers know, Amazon suspends sellers for artificially boosting positive ratings, reviews or feedback all the time. If you play around outside the reviews solicitation policies and things go wrong, don’t expect any sympathy from Amazon. They’ve executed suspensions for product review abuse on a consistent basis going on three years now, and counting. We don’t see that letting up given the public pressure on Amazon to police this behavior.
This year Amazon finally got serious about warnings and suspensions for non-compliant product inserts. Examples abound of sellers who directed traffic to their own sites for free products or heavily discounted items, and once buyers got there, they were encouraged to leave reviews on Amazon. This is a big no-no, no matter what you might hear out there in the marketing space. Whatever you use to invite a buyer to leave you a product review after rewarding them with special deals, that review will be considered compromised and disallowed. This is true no matter how you incentivize them.
All the workarounds in the world won’t persuade Amazon to believe that you haven’t broken the rules once a buyer brings this to their attention. Remember, there is nothing stopping a competitor buying from you to report you. Amazon is under scrutiny for the lack of integrity of the product reviews system already, so they’re motivated to act against any violators.
Listing Violations: Keep Track of Them, and Counter Them!
Amazon’s interested in hearing how and why you violated a policy, not just reading excuses on compliance errors that led to mistaken detail pages. When you explain why it happened, take a holistic view of the error and get into how your listing creation process failed you.
1. If you have errant ASIN variations that you’ve created, Amazon won’t continue to correct them and send you a warning notice every time. Most sellers get one warning and correction, and then an account suspension if they reoffend or fail to make the right changes. Make sure you know how to do these! If you’re consistently using the wrong variation themes or misusing Parent-Child ASIN relationships in any way, expect a suspension message eventually.
2. Amazon’s catalog and policy enforcement teams keep drilling down into PDP tampering, too.
If you’re unsure what content can or should be added to a detail page, then ask compliance experts like us. We’ve seen everything at least once already and don’t want you to make broad assumptions about allowable detail page changes. While listing criteria may vary between categories there are rules that everyone, resellers and private label sellers both, need to play by. If you don’t know the rules, don’t just contact Seller Support and expect real answers from poorly trained reps. Understand and appreciate the risk in getting page titles, bullets, images, or any content wrong. You could lose the whole account over it after just one or two warnings.
3. Some sellers still try to merge their ASINs with older ones that have more reviews, or they try to change the detail page to a different product. Many, many sellers found themselves suspended for this back in 2019, and now there’s a new uptick of wrong merges for illicit purposes. All we can tell you is that you’re not fooling anyone and they can roll those moves back at any time — and then punish you for catalog abuse. Don’t risk your account for it.
Counterfeit Complaints Hit Both Resellers and Private Labelers
Amazon Notice team infringement notifications require real strategy to counter the “IP claim” or complaints received. If Amazon fails to reply to your appeal, which is more often than not the case, you’ll need to know all methods to dispute baseless IP complaints.
Some sellers push counterfeit product complaints against competitors or hire shady law firms to do it for them, without any substantial documentation or proof of counterfeit. Often, the only evidence required from Amazon to remove a listing and warn another seller is a buyer order and a complaint of non-genuine product. Naturally the buyer could represent the competitor, and unless the internal tools show it’s a competitor, Amazon is unlikely to think more about it.
Don’t expect relief from listing teams if you sell branded items without trademarking and entering Brand Registry first. Time and time again, we hear from sellers who say they haven’t trademarked their brand “yet” and none appear to realize how open to attack they are. It’s easy to lose control if you’re not covering yourself by using Brand Registry, or getting your rights ownership in order.
Seller Performance Means Performance Evaluation, Not Just Policy Enforcement
Performance metric targets must be met once again as Amazon has reverted back to metric standards from prior to COVID-19. And if you see performance notifications that flag buyer complaints of inauthentic products or safety concerns or “used sold as new” (as Amazon loves to call condition complaints) do you start digging up root causes? If you plan to continue to fulfill your own orders and fear more problems with FBA inventory management, then by all means do so. Just make sure your shipments don’t go out late and eliminate any chance that you need to cancel orders en masse if inventory isn’t available. Amazon’s short term forgiveness for metrics misses vanished as of June 1, 2020.
Review the issues that prompt performance warnings 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 Account is Suspended, Consider Strategy Before you Act
Study what happened and gauge the situation’s difficulty before choosing your appeal methodology. Is this type of suspension straightforward or convoluted? Will Amazon understand the “root causes” you will identify or believe you’re missing key pieces of information? What sorts of solutions do you have to show them? Make sure they can be understood upon quick review by an account investigator.
Don’t delegate control of your appeal to staff who don’t understand the POA writing process. They need to grasp that this is not a simple “fill in the blanks” exercise.
These days, we advise anyone hit with an account suspension to decide early on if they plan to handle it themselves or hire professional assistance. We encourage anyone to take a shot with a good POA, and we don’t want to discourage that attempt unless there’s no real chance of success. Do you have previously proven capabilities, even on the ASIN-level, with Plan of Action writing and 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. If they don’t accept it, take a hard and honest look at why.
Whatever you do, don’t send the same appeal over and over to Amazon simply because they have a tough time replying to sellers in any meaningful way. Before pushing them to respond, review your POA and make sure it’s solid. Do you know how to diagnose the true suspension causes to Amazon’s satisfaction? Keep in mind that the investigator may skip reading your POA entirely if they feel that your root causes missed the mark. Are you able to state clearly how your actions will prevent future problems?
As a former Amazonian working on the Seller Performance team, I will handle all of your appeals if you need me to. Whether you decide to do it yourself, or want to hire an expert, make sure you get the right help.
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