This article is by Travis Stockman, a 2018 Juris Doctor Candidate at Hofstra Law, and future associate of Rosenbaum Famularo, P.C.
Amazon sellers are often familiar with the more common reasons for having their account suspended. These include intellectual property infringement, authenticity complaints and safety issues.
Being educated on these three causes, along with Amazon’s other common grounds for suspension, can help a seller to maintain a healthier seller account. It also means that if the worst does happen, you’re more likely to understand why you’ve been suspended.
However, despite the many measures that Amazon sellers can implement to protect their account, there are several scenarios sellers may be unaware of that can result in their Amazon seller account being suspended.
Despite all the effort that a seller puts into ensuring that their account has a perfect shipment rate, no inauthentic products, or any other issues, a hacker can compromise the integrity of the account, resulting in the suspension of selling privileges. Sellers may find themselves confused in this situation, wondering why their selling privileges were removed due to someone gaining unauthorized access to their account, but Amazon actually does this for the seller’s own protection.
A seller can implement several protective measures to prevent such a scenario but the possibility is always there. In an effort to prevent account hackings, Amazon now requires sellers to use its Two-Step Verification process. According to Amazon, this feature:
Adds an additional layer of security to your account. Instead of simply entering your password, Two-Step Verification requires you to enter a unique security code in addition to your password during sign in.
In the event that an Amazon seller receives a suspension due to an account hacking, they should first remember not to take out their frustration on Amazon, as they are again doing this to protect the seller.
Often, the account may be reinstated following a detailed appeal to Amazon’s Seller Performance team. A seller should collectively and carefully draft a Plan of Action identifying the situation along with any action taken to correct it.
Changing passwords, securing Wi-Fi, eliminating the use of shared Wi-Fi spaces, and updates on virus protection software can prove helpful in reinstating an account that’s been suspended for hacking. If the Amazon account is locked, a seller should specifically identify this issue in their Plan of Action.
Review manipulation occurs when an Amazon seller performs some action, directly or indirectly, in an effort to obtain positive reviews. An Amazon seller should never contribute false or misleading content in an effort to obtain reviews or offer discounted products to buyers in exchange for a positive review. This conduct is strictly prohibited on the Amazon marketplace.
While positive reviews are key to a successful Amazon business, do not be tempted to risk any type of review manipulation. Prior to October 3, 2016, Amazon did not necessarily prohibit incentivized reviews, or what is now referred to as review manipulation. Sellers who have not been active over the last year or so may still believe that incentivized reviews are permitted. Additionally, Amazon sellers may not realize that their actions constitute review manipulation.
A seller should never ask for a positive review, provide sample review text, or anything else that Amazon may deem to be a review manipulation. Amazon sellers should make sure they keep up-to-date with all review policies in order to avoid such a suspension.
When appealing to Amazon regarding an alleged review manipulation, sellers should compose a Plan of Action that includes detailed lists of corrective measures taken to ensure compliance with Amazon’s ever-changing policies.
Amazon requires that all products sold on their platform conform to the laws of the federal government. This includes compliance with the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Warranty Law, US Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s overview of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
For example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits the sale of products that are labeled “prescription use only.” The FDA’s classification of drugs is constantly changing, resulting in the illegality of products which were once permittable on the Amazon marketplace.
Amazon sellers are often familiar with the general list of restricted items because they deal with them on a routine basis. However, if unsure, it may be a good idea to hire an attorney to determine whether or not the item you intend to list is compliant with all of the federal laws listed above. Additionally, Amazon sellers should keep up-to-date on any changes that are made to these federal restrictions.
With the continuous growth of the Amazon marketplace comes the continued growth of the products that sellers are restricted from selling, as more and more products are being placed in the “gated” or “restricted” categories.
A seller should always check Amazon’s policies on the products they intend to list. Amazon continuously updates its list of products that sellers require approval to sell or are restricted, so sellers should check these on a regular basis to ensure they are complying.
You might think that Amazon automatically restricts these products. However, Amazon sellers often categorize restricted products incorrectly so the listing is not suspended until Amazon’s algorithm notices.
Additionally, Amazon has occasionally misidentified a permitted product as a restricted product. For example, a seller came to us with a listing Amazon had restricted because they deemed the product to have sonar capabilities. The product was actually a microphone-based device with no sonar features whatsoever. We took Amazon to arbitration, won, and our client is now able to list this product again.
In the event that a seller is suspended because they’ve listed a restricted product, it is important that the seller removes the item in question until they have submitted an appeal and obtained Amazon’s permission to relist it. The seller should draft a Plan of Action which demonstrates their knowledge and commitment to Amazon’s policies on restricted products, as well as clarifying any potential error Amazon has made in classifying the product as restricted.
Violation of policy and code of conduct
Amazon sellers face difficult challenges in preventing some of the more complex causes for suspension, and, as a result, they often overlook the more simple reasons, such as policy violations.
Amazon has some fairly straightforward rules requiring a seller to stay in compliance with their policy and code of conduct. This includes, but is not limited to, honoring your commitment to sell a product, maintaining current and accurate account information, maintaining the same account even if Amazon has removed your selling privileges, and never misrepresenting yourself as a seller.
With regards to their selling policies Amazon states:
All sellers are expected to adhere to the following policies when listing products on Amazon.com. Seller offenses and prohibited content are violations of our Business Solutions Agreement, of which these Selling Policies are a part, and can result in suspension of your Amazon.com account.
A client recently came to our firm seeking help after their account was suspended because Amazon decided that they had violated Amazon’s policies. Without further information, we had to develop a plan that would encompass any and all policies they may have violated.
We carefully sifted through their Seller Central account and produced a plan of action which identified every single performance notification received, any successful appeals or potential resolutions pertaining to these issues, as well as our corrective and preventative measures to ensure the seller was fully educated on all of Amazon’s policies. Shortly after submitting this appeal, our client’s selling privileges were reinstated.
In the event that your selling privileges are removed due to a policy violation, Amazon will want to see that you are now fully educated with such policies, along with proof of the actions that you have taken to ensure your compliance will be maintained.
Don’t worry if these causes of account suspension come as a surprise, because even the most experienced Amazon sellers may find themselves unfamiliar with these types of suspension.
Keeping current with all of Amazon’s policies can help sellers to avoid being suspended for most of these reasons. Additionally, sellers should constantly update themselves on Amazon’s product restrictions as well as the restrictions set under federal law.
Unfortunately, despite all of the protective measures that an Amazon seller can to take to cautiously manage their account, the possibility of being suspended because your account was hacked is ever-present. Be sure to implement the advice offered in this post if you ever have your seller account hacked.
Finally, if you are unsure how to appeal any of the above listed suspensions, you should contact an expert in Amazon suspensions to assist you.
This post was by Travis Stockman of Rosenbaum Famularo, P.C.
Travis earned his Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies, from St. John’s University in NYC, and has over eight years of private sector law office experience enabling him to provide Amazon sellers with the utmost in litigation advocacy. Travis is also the Business and Web Development Editor of Hofstra’s Journal of International Business and Law, Volume XVII.