This post is by Chris McCabe, owner and founder of ecommerceChris, LLC, an Amazon seller account consultancy.
There’s nothing worse, as an Amazon seller, than a complete suspension of your selling privileges. It’s an unfortunate fact that suspensions are commonplace, and they affect legitimate hard-working businesses just as much as Amazon sellers who are deliberately cutting corners.
Worse still, Amazon is notorious for being unclear about why accounts are suspended. Sellers are left to investigate for themselves, in the hope that whatever problems they uncover are a match to Amazon’s reasons for suspending them.
When sellers do appeal their suspension, they often panic and insist that Amazon has made a mistake. That ultimately leads to a fruitless cycle of appeals and denials – if they continue to get a response at all.
But there is a right way to go about appealing your suspension. There are clear methods to identify the root causes that Amazon is looking for, even when the information given is vague. There are also proven ways to compose your Plan of Action to give you the best possible chance of successfully reinstating your account.
Why did my Amazon account get suspended?
Sellers often begin their outreach to me with a simple, worrying statement: “Amazon suspended my seller account, but I don’t know why.” That trend has only increased this year.
Unfortunately, Amazon messaging isn’t what it used to be. In the old days, you could expect messages to state, “We have suspended your seller account due to…” and have a fighting chance to understand what the problem really was. Nowadays, sellers must comb through murky, unclear language that fails to provide any specific information at all in many cases. In others, they provide an ASIN or two along with a vague sense of what the issue might be, if buyers or brands have complained about those particular products.
Most of the time, communication with people that “speak Amazon’s language” may be necessary to translate even standard suspension notifications. You may also need to call Account Health Services to find specific details, if you can manage to get a straight answer out of them. As with almost everything Amazon, if you call four times, you may get four different answers. Then you’re back to square one and unsure which path to take.
What should I do if my Amazon account is suspended?
Appeal it of course, but only after you determine the right way to do so responsibly! How do you make sure your appeal will be successful?
First, determine the background reasons that led Amazon to suspend you. Identify the root causes and overall nature of the suspension. What prompted them to take down your entire account, rather than just a listing or two? Put more simply, “What created this situation, as described by Amazon?”
Keep in mind, to demonstrate how you fixed a problem you will have to prove to Amazon that you know what went wrong in the first place.
If you’re stuck right out of the gate on this part, then ask yourself: what past notifications in your Account Health dashboard hinted that trouble was on its way? If you were suspended for policy violations, were notifications sent but never resolved? Were ASIN-level warnings ignored?
Next, lay out specific initial steps you will take to address the situation. Based on what went wrong, would you fix it by improving your operational processes? If the problem was product quality related, will you end supplier relationships or replace existing suppliers with better ones? What details can you show Amazon to verify those new suppliers?
If you were suspended due to product condition issues (such as “used sold as new”), will you bolster your quality control procedures to make sure anything that looks less than 100% new (or less than 100% as described on Amazon) is caught and taken out of inventory, before it sells?
These are the kinds of questions that Amazon staff ask themselves when reviewing your Plan of Action, and they’ll want to see detailed, convincing answers.
What makes a good Amazon suspension appeal and Plan of Action?
The best way to appeal is by following Amazon’s Plan of Action format and offering credible, specific content that reassures them you’re safe to reinstate. Otherwise, they’ll expect you to re-offend and make the same mistakes all over again. Here’s a recap:
- Root causes: Don’t just restate what Amazon has already told you the issue is. Root causes need to explain why and how those mistakes happened.
- Immediate corrective actions: What have you done at the account level to correct the issues cited in previous performance notifications? Are those steps completed?
- Future prevention: What improvements have you put into place to eliminate the root causes of the issue and ensure those problems never happen again?
Amazon has to believe you can be trusted with their buyers and once they take the action to suspend, they need to justify a reason for reinstatement. A weak or non-viable POA makes for an easy denial.
Make your POA detailed but also succinct, and don’t go off topic. Use bullet points, rather than paragraphs, so it’s easy for the investigator to skim quickly without losing interest.
How long do Amazon suspensions last?
Suspensions can last anywhere from one day to forever, depending on how well they’re handled.
Ideally, you appeal for reinstatement and they accept your Plan of Action on the first try. More often these days, they ask for “greater details” when you’re missing some expected POA content. Or, they take a quick glance at it and decide that it’s not worth studying in-depth, so they stop reading and move on to the next one.
Some sellers fail to revise their appeal even when it’s desperately required, instead choosing to assume that Seller Performance failed to read it at all. They resubmit it over and over, and even send it to Jeff’s email, begging for relief or insisting on escalation to Executive Seller Relations. If the plan is strong enough and investigators simply ignored it, then this occasionally works.
But all other times, they’ll either refuse to respond or automatically reject it, indicating that you haven’t provided sufficient information for reinstatement. Don’t consider your POA fully viable unless you know that nobody at Amazon can pick it apart. When in doubt, find a real expert to go over it with you. Then listen to what they say and make the right changes!
Will Amazon give me warnings before being suspended?
Sometimes, only one warning is sent just prior to a suspension. They also may send a message indicating you have 72 hours to write a Plan of Action to prevent losing selling privileges, known within Amazon as a pre-POA or “proactive POA.”
You’re then given a chance to avoid an imminent account suspension by explaining your improved processes. Convincing solutions must be presented or your appeal will be rejected. You will be suspended from that point until you can present a revised appeal that demonstrates actions that helped you solve the deficiencies cited by Amazon.
As an Amazon seller, you must understand that a suspension could strike at any time at all, with or without notice. Don’t depend on receiving a warning or a pre-suspension “heads up” where you can prove yourself to them first.
That being said, we rarely see a suspended account without at least some warning signs. Policy warnings and blocked listings are indications from Amazon that something is going wrong on your account. If you ignore them, or let them pile up, you’re likely facing a suspension.
Can I open a new Amazon account after being suspended?
Any new account opened to evade a current account suspension is likely to be closed due to “relations to an account that may not be used to sell on our site.”
What does this mean? Amazon needs to know you won’t simply go open a new account any time you’re suspended. You have to address any unresolved problems, violations or mistakes in past selling before you can turn towards the future.
Some sellers boast of multiple Amazon accounts that fly under the radar, and black hat services offer to open so-called “stealth” accounts on your behalf. We question how long those will last though, given aggressive policing of related accounts. Thousands were suspended for this last summer alone.
Needless to say, I’m not here to teach you how to evade Amazon policy enforcement. You’ll need to correct past errors and find solid ways to communicate the right ideas to performance and policy teams for reinstatement. That’s the only genuine way to address account suspension.
What can I do about a suspension due to competitor attacks or sabotage?
Seller listings get taken down all the time due to bogus IP complaints, fake safety complaints and authenticity concerns that don’t truly exist.
On any given day, you may have multiple quality and condition reports sent in by suspicious buyers. While it may be hard to point to a single buyer order and assume a competitor is behind the attack, look for systemic abuses and organized activity, or specific buyer actions that suggest bad intent.
These days, private label sellers often see unexplained edits to their branded product detail pages. In that case, identify exactly what was abused on your listing and when it was altered, if possible, so you can accurately report abuse of Amazon’s catalog. They’ll need that information to track illicit changes back to the source.
If you suspect abusive product reviews based on patterns of new negatives that do not match typical product complaints, look for similarities in the review wording. Show Amazon specific evidence that you’ve detected unusual patterns of behavior. The more proof you have, the more likely they are to listen to this type of information in your appeals.
How can I prevent my Amazon account from being suspended?
Resolving account health dashboard notifications as they come in represents one of the best ways to protect your account from suspension.
If you brush off those performance notifications because you’re not sure how to counter them, or even because you no longer sell the ASINs cited, you’re passively waiting for Seller Performance to suspend you. You must act assertively to prevent a suspension from shutting your business down.
Go back through policy warnings that you’ve left unaddressed. Identify the violations, study the policy pages you misinterpreted (or ignored) previously, and communicate back to Amazon how you understand those policies much better now. You’ve taken care of your past errors, because you’ve implemented new compliance procedures within your operation. It won’t happen again!
For example, maybe you had consistent item condition complaints and defect reports due to insufficient packaging. You failed to appreciate initially how much padding was required to protect the items in transit, all the way to their destination. No worries, you secure them inside the box much more reliably now. Those “damaged in transit” buyer complaints are gone for good, and you’re frequently auditing the new process to make sure it works.
What can I do if my Amazon suspension appeal is rejected?
You can continue to appeal after receiving a rejection, but you must revise your Plan of Action (POA).
Please don’t submit the same POA over and over, under the assumption that no one is reading it. If you’re 100% sure that your POA addressed every possible facet of the original problem, with comprehensive solutions no investigator would push aside, go ahead and escalate it. But if you go down this route, be certain that your POA is bulletproof. Otherwise you risk burning up your appeal attempts entirely. Later revisions to the POA may not get their attention.
Sometimes good POAs are ignored, and no responses are sent at all. What do you do?
First, try calling Account Health Services (AHS) to see if they can tell you what the appeal’s status is. Has anyone seen it yet? Was it transferred to another team? Is Seller Performance so far behind that nobody can even tell you when they’ll get to it? That’s certainly useful to know. If it was reviewed and denied but no message was sent, you may not even know you’ve been denied. Insist upon getting denial notes from AHS if they say you cannot expect a response at all.
You certainly can’t base a revised POA on guesses. You need to know why Seller Performance considered the POA incomplete or somehow unacceptable. Which aspect did you leave unaddressed?
Don’t depend on Amazon to give you a blueprint to follow, even if the AHS rep confidently relays their opinions to you. You have to revise the next appeal based on more than a quick run-through by one of their reps. Understand that you only get so many chances at this before Amazon gives up on you.
Why does a reinstatement consultant need me to be involved in the process?
Amazon reinstatement consultants don’t necessarily need you to answer long lists of questions for each type of account suspension, but they should customize their work to your particular case.
Similar themes and suspension trends often exist, but you still need to present unique responses specific to your account’s situation. Those must align with your true capabilities by referencing completed (not “intended”) actions that you’ve taken. Solutions must be genuine and credible based on each proactive step you’ve shown. And Amazon needs to believe it!
If you are working with a consultant and just giving them basic information, any worthwhile advisor should ask you more questions and dig deeper. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for “greater details” requests from Amazon on each of the steps you’ve provided.
Beware of any company peddling generic templates with vague content that nobody at Amazon will take seriously. If you hired someone to help and they toss a copy-and-paste, “fill in the blanks” POA back at you, then you know you’ve hired the wrong people. You’re better off on your own than bringing in basic content with little chance of success. Worse, you’ll be burning through potential opportunities to appeal successfully and get reinstated sooner.
Can a consultant guarantee my reinstatement if I pay them enough?
No one can guarantee a successful Amazon suspension appeal at any price. If you are offered a quick and guaranteed reinstatement, take it as a big red flag. Screen consulting services carefully, not hastily, and don’t be persuaded by unrealistic promises.
What does a good consultant look like? They should know how to handle all parts of the appeals process, from the initial diagnosis of root causes, to composing a well-written POA, right through to proper escalation strategies if you get stuck. There’s no partial credit in this game! An appeal that gets some things right will result in failure just the same as one that gets nothing right.
Most of all, a consultant must grasp the various tactics you’ll need if the POA falls on deaf ears. Did Amazon consider it “non-viable” without any solid reasons given? If no one inside Seller Performance will take a few minutes to consider your account reinstatement, you’ll need proper guidance on the appropriate escalation path, not just a quick fix.
This post was by Chris McCabe, owner and founder of ecommerceChris, LLC, an Amazon seller account consultancy. Chris was formerly an Investigation Specialist for Amazon’s Seller Performance team.