On August 16th, 2019, Amazon amended the terms of their services agreement with third-party retailers. The reason? Germany’s anti-trust authority, the Federal Cartel Office (FCO), initiated an investigation into the platform’s treatment of third-party merchants after receiving numerous complaints.
The FCO’s initial statement contained a list of potentially abusive practices by Amazon, one of which was suspending retailers’ accounts with immediate effect and failing to supply a clear explanation.
After reaching a settlement with the FCO, Amazon changed the wording of their Services Business Solutions Agreement. It now stated that Amazon would give sellers a 30-day notice before closing their account, saying they would terminate their access to any services or terminate the contract with a month’s advance notice.
Before this, Amazon was legally able to suspend sellers’ accounts immediately “without justification.”
However, your account can still be terminated immediately if Amazon finds that you have “materially breached” your agreement, engaged in illegal or fraudulent activities, or harmed other merchants, customers or “Amazon’s legitimate interests.”
But what if your account has been unexpectedly suspended without your breaking any rules?
First, you need to assess the situation and make absolutely sure that you did, in fact, adhere to all of Amazon’s policies. If you haven’t taken the time to familiarize yourself with all the do’s and don’ts, it’s easy to unintentionally step over a line you didn’t even know existed.
Let’s take a look at some of the possible reasons Amazon might suspend your account and how you can deal with them:
1. Poor Selling Performance
Amazon wants their marketplace to be competitive while providing good customer service. If their algorithm detects too many bad reviews on your store, or if your dispatch and shipping timelines indicate that too many of your customers don’t receive their orders on time, Amazon may decide to terminate their agreement with you. You may receive a letter that reads something like this:
Amazon has certain thresholds they want you to meet in order to keep your account active.
These minimum seller performance targets include your:
- Order defect rate: the amount of negative feedback you receive on customer orders
(calculated as a percentage)
- Pre-fulfillment cancel rate: the number of seller-fulfilled orders you cancel before shipment (calculated as a ratio)
- Late shipment rate: the number of seller-fulfilled orders that are not shipped on time
(calculated as a ratio)
If your overall metrics fall below Amazon’s minimum targets, they may choose to close your account.
Don’t assume that your account will automatically be reinstated with the reset of the weekly performance statistics. Amazon suspensions are permanent by default, and your account will not be reactivated unless you successfully appeal Amazon’s decision.
2. Trademark Infringement Complaints
Do you source trademarked goods directly from the rights owner for your store? If you change the name of your Amazon store without informing them, they may not recognize you. This could result in their mistakenly reporting you to Amazon for the violation of intellectual property rights. Amazon takes these complaints very seriously, and you will have to pull out all the stops to convince them to reopen your account.
3. Copyright Infringement Complaints
If your account has been suspended due to copyright infringement, it means that Amazon has received a complaint claiming that you’re using text or images in your product listings that does not belong to you. Before you request reinstatement of your account, you’ll need to remove the copyrighted content from your store. However, that won’t be enough. You’ll also need to contact the rights owner and convince them to withdraw their complaint.
To avoid this, you should always use original images and text in your product descriptions.
4. Inaccurate Product Information
Amazon requires that the products you list completely match the details and specifications you provide. This includes features like the product’s measurements, color, material, and functionality. If they find any inconsistencies, they will revoke your selling rights and send you a list of the Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASINs) of the products they deem to be inauthentic.
5. Operating More Than One Amazon Seller Account
In an attempt to prevent fraud, Amazon has a very strict policy against one seller operating multiple accounts. If you ignore this and open another account anyway, they will find out eventually and close one or all of your stores. To have multiple Amazon Selling accounts, you’ll need to meet certain requirements and get Amazon’s approval first. They will only grant you permission to open another account if they feel you have provided enough information to verify that you have a genuine business need for it.
To be considered, you’ll also need to:
- Open a separate bank account for each Seller Central account if they will be operated in the same region.
- Create a separate email address for each account.
- Ensure that the products and services are different for each account.
- Ensure that your performance metrics are in good shape.
Once you have all the necessary documents, you can approach Amazon through their Contact Us page in Seller Central.
6. Your Account Has Been Hacked
If you’ve been the victim of a cyber attack where your Amazon account got hacked and you haven’t informed them of this violation, they will suspend your account until you verify that you are the rightful store owner. They could also place a hold on your funds to prevent the cyber criminals from making unauthorized transfers.
To prevent this, you should take certain security measures such as activating two-step verification on your account. You should also be careful of public WiFi connections and avoid accessing your account from unsecure devices.
7. Selling Restricted Products
If you sell any item that is on Amazon’s list of prohibited products, your account will be at risk of suspension without notification. Furthermore, if you’re a Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) seller, you should know that there are certain products that are not eligible for the FBA program.
How to Start Selling Again
If your seller account gets suspended because you’ve done something that has fallen outside the scope of Amazon’s Code of Conduct, you still have a chance at redemption. There are certain steps that you can take to appeal Amazon’s decision and get your store up and running again. These steps will depend on the reason behind your suspension.
If you haven’t been using the platform to perform illegal or deceiving activities, such as accepting payments from buyers without sending them a product, then Amazon will send you a notification describing the reason for your suspension.
However, if you have been engaging in illegal activities on Amazon and they feel that providing you with this information will “hinder the investigation or prevention of deceptive, fraudulent, or illegal activity,” they may terminate your account without providing an explanation.
So if you’re a legit businessperson who just got your account suspended due to an innocent misunderstanding, or if you’ve just had a slow business period, you can follow this step-by-step guide to redeem your seller status:
- As soon as your account gets closed, you should receive an email notification from Amazon stating the reason behind your suspension. Carefully take note of the contents to get a clear understanding of the issues you’ll need to address to get your account reactivated.
- Next, you’ll need to create a plan of action (POA) to present to Amazon’s Seller Performance Team. In your POA, you’ll need to specify the root cause of the issues that led to your suspension and explain the steps you’re going to take to resolve and prevent them. Make sure to give facts, and thoroughly explain the steps you’re going to take to correct the issue.
- Remember to provide supporting evidence for every ASIN item that Amazon has flagged for review. These items are compiled in a list at the bottom of the initial notification. Check the requested timeframe for the files as well, as some documents require invoices from the past financial year.
Things to Avoid After the Suspension
Involving an attorney is a sure-fire way of delaying the outcome of your appeal. Sometimes, Amazon also becomes unresponsive until they’re personally contacted about the suspension. It’s better to get the complaint withdrawn from the attorney’s office and work with Seller Performance directly for the reinstatement of your account.
2. Inappropriate language
This is a given, but many merchants are so upset with the suspension that they send rants to the Seller Performance Team. A much better approach is to humbly apologize for your mistake and come up with the best POA possible to convince them to reopen your store.
3. Fabricated invoices
Merchants should be aware that Amazon doesn’t approve of inventory sourced from unauthorized origins. Some sellers that are suspended on Amazon for inauthentic inventory will modify their existing invoices to be in line with Amazon’s requirements. However, creating an invoice from receipts doesn’t work and will damage their case. In fact, submitting such invoices will result in a “forged and manipulated” violation, which is even more challenging to address.
Amazon will give you a chance to plead your case. Just know that the amount of appeals you’re allowed to file is not limitless. You’ll need to put some effort into your request for reinstatement and supply enough supporting documentation to convince Amazon that your account is worth restoring. Remember to be courteous in all your communications with Amazon – this will increase your chances of getting your account reinstated so that you can start selling again!
Check out our previous blog post to learn more about Amazon’s product restrictions, or read our full Guide to Selling on Amazon for some great tips on how to make your business a success. And if you’re looking for more personalized advice, feel free to contact us.