Amazon Account Suspensions: Myths and Facts

Amazon Suspension Myths

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.

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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.

Chris McCabe
Chris McCabe

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.

25 comments on “Amazon Account Suspensions: Myths and Facts

  1. What steps is Amazon taking to protect sellers against fraudalent / false buyer claims?

    1 – Buyer buys item, changes their mind and return it as defective

    2 – Buyer buys item, doesn’t know how to use it, returns it as defective

    Or are they assuming the ‘customer is always right’?

    What is stopping me buying items from a competitor and nuking their account?

    Furthermore, do they have any appreciation of manufacturing defects or do they just assume the seller is doing something they shouldn’t?

    Products are sometimes faulty.

    It happens and short of testing every product we buy (thus making it used / open box) it is impossible to guarantee a 0% defect rate.

    If Amazon applied their seller rules to their own sales, how long would they be allowed to sell for?

    Anyone who relies on Amazon for their busines is walking on thin ice. Sooner or later it may crack.

    This article just confirms that viewpoint.

    1. OnlineMerchant: Fully agreed. Provided the use of black hat tactics are well planned, you’re careful about IP addresses and what account you use (find someone on fiverr, for example), or open dummy accounts with pre-paid credit cards, etc, you can completely torpedo your competition.

      The system Amazon employs is understandable given the that cult of Bezos gives no quarter to it’s it’s marketplace users. Much like an online Walmart, it seeks utter domination of the market, even at the cost of profits and the health and safety of it’s workers. Satisfaction of even it’s most unreasonable and petulant of its customers is part of that strategy.

      However, it is flawed, Amazon holds no appeal to my business model, I do not wish to devote the majority of my time to a marketplace that commands the highest fees of them all, nor do I wish to engage in a race to the bottom with other competitors using Amazon’s repricing tools, only to get booted off Amazon because Amazon itself out-competes me or, as mentioned above, my competitors get me kicked off using black hat tactics.

      Unless I am certain I can achieve price supremacy at a reasonable profit, I will steer clear of Amazon. Amazon offers volume, but little other incentive to join. Indeed Amazon expects you to treat Amazon as if they were your customer, even though you pay them, it is by far the worst marketplace for online sellers..

    2. The buyer who submits a complaint regarding item quality will get a good hearing from Amazon, especially if there are past, other different item complaints against your account. There are clear false positives that result in warnings, but buyers making any complaint of fake, counterfeit, not as described on the site or not in the described condition will result in an automated warning, if nothing else. Amazon wants to encourage dissatisfied buyers to submit complaints so they have a basis for taking item quality actions against bad sellers, but the system does not allow for unclear, untrue or overly aggressive complaints against good sellers. Amazon has problems of scale to address in the marketplace and chooses the easiest and bluntest option. If some sellers are wrongly cited, they should be able to prove easily that they have legitimate items, with invoices, and background about suppliers, but by then you’ve already been warned. It’s a jungle out there.

      1. A shampoo and conditioner set shipped FBA arrives with shampoo leaking. Seller review includes “Bottle arrived open”…Amazon Artificial intelligence, ( machine learning) drops a policy violation on us as “sold used as new”…. two weeks later listing is still down because Amazon then rejected our invoice. Not even using common sense that the bottle was damaged in shipping, nor that we sent two pallets of this item, and sold 200 in last 30 days. No common sense…. and a combative tone of “invoice not credible”…

        #1 Not only should we not get a policy violation, we should be reimbursed for Carrier Damaged!

        #2 Some $6.00 an hour employee in India or Costa Rica is passing on the credibility of US commercial invoices?

        In another case I had a seller performance rep say that our invoice was not credible because …I quote: “The invoice has different Font Sizes”

        If Amazon or anyone thinks that this system is weeding out the bad.. its not. Its a nightmare. I spend almost 30% of my time on problems created by Amazon.

        I cringe every time I get the seller support emails that end with:


        ummmm, no, you don’t. Not even close.

  2. Amazon has become a frightening place for third-party sellers. One look at the seller forums and you realize there’s an overwhelming consensus that no matter what you do, it’s only a matter of time until you make an unintentional mistake and are suspended.

    But the most concerning thing about the current wave of suspensions if the fact that Amazon has dished out so many in recent months that they can’t begin to keep up with the appeals. Yet, they still tell suspended sellers they will hear back within “24 to 48 hours.” Instead, suspended sellers are LUCKY if they get a first response in 3 weeks.

    Meanwhile, legitimate businesses are desperately trying to pay vendors, make payroll, and keep employees busy and hope they don’t have to lay them off during the waiting game.

    If sellers ignored their buyers for 3 weeks, they’d be canned by Amazon just for that alone. Yet Amazon seems to have the arrogance to believe they don’t have the same responsibility to respond to and evaluate seller suspensions in any sort of reasonable amount of time. Their lack of professionalism is mind-boggling.

    Why doesn’t Jeff Bezos spend a minuscule portion of his billions to hire a few dozen more Seller Performance agents in order to keep up with the new flood of seller suspensions?? The fact that this department is completely unreachable other than via email with a 3 week response time is absolutely unbelievable when people’s businesses are on the line.

    I don’t attempt to make any excuse for suspensions that are well deserved. But after reading the seller forums recently, it’s very clear that Amazon is taking the approach of killing a gnat with a hammer. So many of these issues could be quickly (and far less destructively) resolved with direct communication with the seller. And it would sure take a load off the obviously understaffed Seller Performance appeal queue.

    It’s high time Amazon re-evaluated the way they are handling suspensions. They’re breeding an environment among third party sellers that’s frighteningly similar to what the New York Times article exposed about the corporate culture.

    1. It’s true that at least these days there appears to be a wide net cast over both good and bad sellers. The catch is then sorted out into good and bad after the fact, when some additional checks are made and more information pored over. But by the time you get your favorable response, you might be off the site for a couple of weeks. That is a lot of business to lose. The gnat/ hammer point is well taken. Hopefully, processes will be refined and SOPs fine tuned in the near future.

  3. I’ll probably come back and make a more thoughtful comment with my own anecdotal experiences. But I wanted to make this more philosophical contribution now.

    Qualifier. I’ve sold over 20 million dollars on Amazon since 2011. I’ve sold in every category with the exception of books, jewelry and fine art.

    My Comment:

    Until Amazon see’s and treats sellers as Customers, it will always be tough sledding to sell on Amazon.

    During the last two quarters, 43% of what Amazon shipped did not belong to them. 3rd party revenue , margins and profit greatly exceed their retail side numbers. Amazon is not a retailer, they are a product search engine, that also offers marketing, logistics and fulfillment services.

    3rd party sellers are their customers. When Amazon begins to be “customer-centric” for all its customers, whether on the buy or sell side, things will improve. Until then, Amazon is an awful company to be in business with.

    When Jeff Bezo’s responded to the NY Times piece with “I don’t know the Amazon described by the NY Times”…. My first thought was , “Jeff, You need to get to know your company”.

    Because the Amazon described by the NY Times is the ONLY Amazon that I know. Ruthless, Cruel, Arbitrary, Punitive, Unilateral and Unprofessional.

    I appreciate Chris McCabes effort to make some sense of what they are currently doing. But you can’t put lipstick on a Pig and call it pretty. Amazon is a disgusting entity.

  4. Couldn’t have said it better myself re: these comments. There’s no protection for sellers and it’s sad. Amazon is a great place to start until you get a separate eCommerce site/store running.

  5. Amazon suspended me after about a year of selling claiming that my photos were in violation only every time that I tried to reach out to them for help to determinw which ones were in violation, I was left to figure it out myself.
    It turned out that I was indefinitely suspended for not capturing the whole view of a men’s dress shirt, only the front folded up view in which Amazon was doing the exact same thing on there own items. This is a pretty ruthless company to sell for from my own experience. If they choose to get rid of you, they will find a way.

  6. I hate to say it, but it is plain to see. Something bad, really bad is becoming more and more likely to take place; by an unstable disgruntled individual.

    you can’t @#$% w/ people in such a way and not expect repercussions.

  7. Lets be honest and clear… There is a cost to performing the Amazon online marketplace, serving customers, and Amazon shifts certain costs to sellers, so they can make more profits. Until there exists a significant competitor to Amazon, then nothing will change. Amazon also shifts many burdens and costs on to their workers. Welcome to an abusive capitalist system.

    1. Item quality work that covers the entire marketplace will be tricky to arrange, and it’s hard to have enough capacity to cover all of the potential emails on all the relevant warnings. Buyer complaint vetting is an area they will need to improve upon, but the task is enormous, to be sure. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  8. It seems Amazon could improve their system and have a seller funded service at the same time, heck they could even make a profit. How many sellers would pay say $250 per year for Account Insurance. This could entitle you to a detailed assessment of issues, phone contact with a dedicated resolution agent, that would batting for you, including them contacting the customer/s with the complaint to have the item returned to agent for inspection. When they receive the product back they could also request random samples of your stock from the warehouse to check it was ok. Make it a guaranteed 7 day resolution period. If each resolution agent could handle say 10 simultaneous cases you would have personalised service. Imagine if only 10% of sellers did this it would generate a good amount of revenue for Amazon and a win for sellers.

  9. This article overlooks the fact that some of these complaints are not generated by human beings at all. Their possible effects on the health and metrics of a seller’s account, however, are very real.

    We’ve been an Amazon seller for over ten years, with a solid customer approval rating and zero history of complaints. Two weeks ago, we received an email from Amazon claiming a customer had lodged a complaint against us.

    No such thing ever happened. Amazon’s own software generated this “complaint”.

    The customer had written with questions about an item. We replied in detail and sent photos. The customer ordered the item (a book). The listing was automatically deactivated in the normal course of events. An email notifying us of a “complaint” came less than 12 hours after we had confirmed shipping. The (already delisted) item was then “flagged” as being potentially “inauthentic”. Obviously, the complaint had been generated well before the customer could possibly have received the item. The entire incident literally made no sense. Then we realized: Amazon’s bots had scoured our emails with this customer for certain keywords. The “complaint” had been generated automatically.

    A few days later the customer received the item and wrote of her own accord to thank us for our excellent service.

    We explained the matter to Amazon. They have not responded. We are still waiting for an assurance from Amazon that they have not recorded this as a black mark against either our products or our service.

    1. My reference to the auto-warnings generated by buyer complaints was meant to cover the non-manual actions that are often taken against seller accounts. False positives result from certain words or phrases used in the buyer complaint, and auto warnings are sent to the would-be offending seller. When these pile up, trouble results.

      I’ll be clearer about the nature of the warnings and how they’re created in the future. Thanks for the feedback.


      1. I would really really love to know how these buyer complaints are generated.

        I was recently suspended, I sell ladies hairpices – my return rate is quite high, people just buy things try them on (or wear them out), Then invent some reason for a return.

        I checked through the messages and returns for the 10 ASINs mentioned in my suspension letter and apart from the one nutter there were no sales that stood out.

        I cant believe anyone actually calls Amazon.

        These complaints must be genetated by Amazon themselves by a bot most likely from the messages?

        perhaps you can reveal how to avoid their evil eye.


        1. Hi Simon,

          Unfortunately, Amazon will not be changing their approach to these complaints anytime soon. Most will result in an automated warning and you won’t always be able to find evidence of a complaint in claims or buyer messaging if they never file a claim, or never contact you. People definitely do contact Amazon about their orders if there’s anything off about an item or they have any sort of complaint, and Amazon will always listen. They’re using the buyer complaints to gauge 3rd party seller item quality, because it’s the only way to scale the work into who is selling what exactly and if it matches what was listed on the site.

          Buyers, on their end, are trained to complain on amazon. They think they will get some degree of satisfaction by reporting things to Amazon, whether material or otherwise. It’s going to stay this way for a while because that system works well for both of those parties.


  10. Thanks for your reply,

    I think the complaints are mostly from difficult buyers – I very much doubt that the complaint was about the actual item. Although I think Amazon turned them into that.

    So mostly I think its a customer service issue. I have adopted a very passive no arguments policy with my buyers, no matter how unreasonable there request is.

    Do you think this will help?

    And do you think moving to FBA would solve all these worries?


  11. Amazon had suspended me after one buyer tried to pull a fast one. I got a negative mark and weeks later a suspension notice. Sent every email imaginable to get it reinstated but they didn’t budge.

    I contacted Auction Essistance, but they said it is like eBay where reinstatement is nearly impossible.

    But do you think it is a good idea to open an Amazon account under an employee to sell?

  12. So my company had an Amazon sellers acct which we were using while we tried to increase sales through our company ecommerce site. Back in May I began generating lots of Amazon sales and filling them quickly. Then out of the blue after I placed an order for some supplies through an Amazon seller, I get a note from Amazon saying my sellers acct has been suspended and any sales will be cancelled. Well I kept receiving orders (lots of orders). I was locked out my acct so I couldnt fill them if I wanted to. Still trying to figure out why a suspended acct was still generating orders. Fast forward to this week, I’m receiving A-Z complaints from customers because they havent received their order. I’ve been trying to contact Amazon but it’s like you cant. I did manage to send them a request to close my acct..well they did and they also closed my son’s acct (smh). So now he cant purchase off of Amazon. I also keep getting messages as if they dont realize they have suspended my acct or closed it. I dont care about inventory being low…my acct is closed. Worst idea ever becoming an Amazon seller.

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