This post is by Chris McCabe. After several years evaluating seller account performance for Amazon’s merchant assessment teams, Chris left Amazon to apply those skills as a merchant account liaison. If sellers need help communicating with Amazon or navigating its occasionally opaque processes, he intercedes and facilitates solutions.
Why are Amazon account suspensions on the increase in 2015?
This is a subject of frequent debate among those active on Amazon marketplaces. I have watched the spike in aggressive actions and tried make sense of what initiated this rise in account restrictions.
The Product Quality squad had to strengthen policy enforcement across the board once management decided that too many buyers were complaining of counterfeit or fake items, of items arriving in a condition other than what was described, and of items which were generally not as they had been listed on the site.
This team came together in an effort to implement more punitive strategies that would reduce these complaints and reinforce buyer trust in marketplace item quality. As a result of this, every buyer complaint is assessed in either automated or manual fashion and a warning is sent. If additional complaints come in, more actions are taken, up to and including suspension.
I do my best to guide sellers through the reasons why they have lost their accounts, either temporarily or permanently, due to suspected policy violations. In the course of these conversations, I have discovered some misconceptions among sellers.
Myth #1 – Suspensions Are Waived or Less Common for Top Sellers
I’ve worked with multiple sellers in the $15-25 million in revenue per year range alongside others in the $2-$3 million range, and all were suspended and reinstated in the same way.
Each time, I tried to sort through exactly what Amazon wanted to see in a reply. I composed multiple new, fresh plans of action or appeals which the seller then sent into the main email queues.
Anyone accumulating item quality complaints is susceptible to an account review, which could, in the course of a manual investigation, lead to suspension. Having a high level of annual revenue may not make much of a difference even if you have an Account Manager. You may have someone still mapped to your account who no longer has the same role, or their replacement may not be familiar with Product Quality processes. They could get some intelligence on the suspension cause or what you need to provide, but it may not be substantially different than what you already read in Amazon emails asking for your Plan of Action.
Product Quality is concerned primarily with reducing or eliminating the kinds of buyer complaints they are getting against your account, and is less concerned with the commissions the company is losing by removing you from the site. If your Plan of Action is considered less than adequate, then you won’t get back on any faster just because you sell more than others. Reinstate rates and timelines are about the same for everyone in my client consulting experience.
Myth #2 – Amazon Tells You the Reason(s) Why They Suspended You
Product Quality will only give you the specific ASIN tied to the buyer’s problematic order when you get warned, but not the order number. The information about the complaint itself will include vague wording such as a “potential buyer complaint,” so you won’t be given any specifics.
Amazon will cite either the item’s condition as the main issue or the differences between the detail page description and the product the buyer received, including inauthentic or counterfeit complaints.
If you receive several buyer complaints and if the nature of the complaint suggests poor item quality (or different items altogether), eventually you will be flagged for an account review. Once in the manual investigation process, you’re at risk for suspension.
The burden will be on you to review what happened with orders associated with that ASIN and on you to make operational changes and prevent future problems. They won’t give you the order number lest you contact the buyer who complained and bother them about why they reported your item to Amazon. You’re essentially on your own in terms of what went wrong and how to correct it.
Myth #3 – Suspensions Happen Because You Ignored Warnings
Suspensions often happen even if you heed warnings, but ignoring them is a sure-fire way of increasing your risk of trouble.
At bare minimum, you should email the Product Quality team and explain what you think went wrong with a particular order. You should always inform them that you’ve investigated the item both internally and with your supplier in order to ensure the item really was “as described” on the site.
An investigator should then annotate your account indicating that you have addressed the matter as much as possible. If you’re prompted to send invoices in to prove authenticity, make sure those invoices are as detailed as possible, save for the pricing information.
There’s a reason why you have been suspended, but don’t waste time disputing whether or not it was a good one. Amazon saw multiple complaints come in on your account within a particular time frame and their due diligence requires action on those complaints. Every suspension is annotated with details on the complaints you’ve received. You are largely at the mercy of the investigative skills of the person scrutinizing your account so you will want to make your Plan of Action as professional and focused as you can.
Myth #4 – Suspensions Are Rare
If you are suspended and truly cannot determine the reasons why, you might be asking yourself: is this only happening to me?
As long as buyers contact Amazon to complain about order and item quality problems, there will be auto-warnings sent out to sellers and account reviews to complete. Any account review could result in suspension, depending on the number of complaints, the nature of the complaints, and each account’s particular history.
But the number of suspensions happening will not be going down any time soon. Every seller will need to be extremely vigilant in all matters related to inventory accuracy, Amazon product detail page content, product condition guidelines and in rapid responses to buyer messages, claims, or negative feedback.
This vigilance and adherence to Amazon listing and condition policies will pay off in terms of risk mitigation. You will hear a lot less often from Product Quality, and certainly you will see fewer auto-warnings in your inbox. If you continue to see those even after taking preventive measures, consider taking different or additional steps to ensure the best imaginable buyer experience.