This post is by Mordechai Epelbaum, an independent consultant, and Tuvyah Schleifer, of CRSeller.
When there is a breach of eBay’s policy, sellers can have their accounts suspended. An eBay suspension means business interruption, and often a cascade of problems with serious implications for the seller.
Why does eBay suspend seller accounts? It’s their business to protect the community from bad buyers and sellers. They want to make sure that no one gets hurt. Not the brand, not the buyer, and not the seller.
Perhaps most importantly, policy violations hurt eBay’s reputation and, in the final analysis, that is why eBay cares about them.
In this post, we’ll explain why eBay accounts are suspended, how the process works, and how to avoid it happening again.
Why does eBay suspend seller accounts?
There are many reasons why eBay might suspend a seller’s account. Here are a few examples of common issues that can show up in performance metrics:
- Late shipping of orders (including via dropshipping)
- Late tracking number upload or validation
- A high transaction defect rate
- Failing to resolve cases raised by buyers in the Resolution Center
Let’s look at those in turn.
1. Late shipping of orders
Late shipping is a big issue. After all, most eBay customers check the estimated shipping time of the merchandise they buy. So, before placing an order the customer has already set their delivery expectations.
For instance, if the product description states delivery in three days, it better be delivered in three days. But it goes further than that. In actuality, it’s a problem if it takes over a day for the seller to dispatch the item – for it to leave their premises. Late dispatch makes buyers nervous, and they’ll be quick to complain or leave negative feedback, if anything that comes after that falls below their expectations.
Once the customer has made their payment, shipping the item out really shouldn’t take more than two hours.
2. Late tracking number upload or validation
Online shoppers always want to know the status of their order. Or they at least want to know that they can find out the status any time they want, and fast. So, sharing tracking numbers quickly is essential.
eBay validates the tracking number, and shares it with the buyer, and this is critical. Failure to submit tracking information quickly raises one of two flags. Either poor seller workflow, or a failure to ship by a tracked service. Both are unacceptable, and compromise the trust with the buyer. Convincing eBay otherwise can be an uphill battle.
3. A high transaction defect rate
Next, violating the defect rate metric is a fast track to suspension land. Sellers must address buyer communications and complaints really quickly, and with skill.
To begin with, avoiding errors of perception is critical. If you can, it’s always better to undersell your product. If it’s used, or “seller refurbished”, highlight the blemishes. Don’t over promise on quality. It’s just not worth it.
In your templates, store page, Facebook page and website, describe yourself well. Explain your commitment to the buyer. Show that you are a trustworthy and caring seller. Build enough confidence in your customer, that they trust working with you if they do have an issue.
4. Failing to resolve cases in the Resolution Center
You must address your customers’ issues head-on. We’ll say it again. You must work with your customers, no matter how unreasonable or demanding they are being.
You must also design your listings, and listing templates, with this in mind. Don’t fill your listings with small print to use against buyers when they complain. eBay customers expect a consistent experience whoever they buy from, and are increasingly unlikely to read or take seriously your own unique terms of business.
Think of how few negatives it takes to unseat hundreds of positives. Design your listings to help avoid future problems, even if it means fewer sales.
Does eBay ever suspend sellers with good metrics?
Metrics are a blunt tool. They help provide an overall picture of how a seller is doing, but they don’t provide the reasons behind the numbers.
A seller can work hard on their performance and have great metrics, but eBay sees the whole communication with buyers and can take action based on a single case, if it is warranted. Metrics are there to help business owners manage key performance indicators, not to keep track of policy violations.
A common violation is when sellers make deliberate attempts to manipulate their metrics. This ranges from aggressively pursuing buyers to change negative feedback, to as far as calling eBay pretending to be the buyer.
Other examples of policy violations include:
- Not paying eBay fees
- Selling substandard or counterfeit products
- Selling the same products through another eBay account
Those situations erode eBay’s reputation just as much as poor metrics, and eBay will address them when they are discovered.
If you contributing to below-standard buyer experiences or providing poor quality merchandise, you are not building a viable and healthy business on eBay, no matter how great your metrics are or how much money you are turning over.
Will eBay warn sellers before suspending them?
The behavior listed above might lead to account suspension. What do they all have in common? Poor account governance. Bad seller form.
eBay is watching for poor behavior and will issue repeat warnings for almost all issues. Often, however, sellers do not realize that the messages from eBay were serious, until it was too late.
eBay will treat every warning they sent you in the past very seriously, whether you thought it was important or not. The fact that eBay messages mix with customer messages is not an excuse, in their eyes at least, for not having seen a past warning.
What about all the scammers selling on eBay? Why don’t they get suspended?
After all is said and done, blatant fraud has sadly been on the rise at eBay. Examples run the gamut including:
- Selling stolen goods
- Not shipping the item purchased
- Using a stolen identity to create eBay accounts
- Not describing items for sale truthfully
- Running several accounts to buy or sell more than allowed
These incidences are very costly to eBay as they damage the company’s reputation, so eBay is very active in identifying and permanently suspending these kind of sellers.
The problem is that scammers can be very skilled in covering their tracks and opening new accounts. Even when they do get caught, there are others who will take their place.
What happens first when an eBay account is suspended?
The first thing that takes place is a message from eBay, notifying you of your account suspension. eBay may or may not detail the reasons, violations or evidence they based their decision on. Even if they do, the suspension might not make sense to you.
The suspension message will sometimes include a recommended action, and the terms of the suspension. Suspension terms are usually either:
- 7, 10 or 30 days in duration, or
- Indefinite, with a total loss of privileges
You will be unable to operate your account for the specified period of time, then will be reinstated automatically once the suspension is over.
How do eBay account suspensions affect sellers?
A seller will often encounter “ripple effects” from a suspension, and a definite impact in many areas of their business and personal life.
Cash flow problems
Let’s start with something tangible: cash flow. For better or worse, selling on eBay means transacting through PayPal. This is a live, real-time money transfer system that multi-channel sellers appreciate, particularly compared to Amazon and other marketplaces that take weeks to pay out.
No matter what size your business is, it’s always nice having cash pour into your PayPal account. When eBay sales stop, the live cash that is so important to business health also stops.
Personal and employee problems
From here, the next step on the ripple-effect-trail is personal and employee stress. Due to the interrupted cash flow there can be terminations. This can result in low morale among the remaining staff, as uncertainty about job security begins to set in.
Employees are usually the people closest to persistent issues in the business, and can see a suspension as a wake-up call to the boss. Many times, they brought up problems in the past but nothing was done, so they learned to keep it to themselves.
Now everyone starts hitting new emotional lows. Feelings of helplessness, and being out of control are common. There can be anxiety that won’t go away. Everyone involved can feel numb, disconnected and unable to trust each other.
Does your PayPal account get frozen if you are suspended by eBay?
eBay and PayPal became independent companies in 2015, but they are still closely intertwined.
One of the newest ripple effects of eBay suspensions, has been PayPal imposing limits or outright suspensions. Buyers will often complain to PayPal as well as, or instead of, complaining to eBay. PayPal can’t afford to have negative customer experiences any more than eBay can, and won’t let weak sellers erode the trust that buyers have in them.
PayPal and eBay are motivated by profit of course, and sellers will often calculate the fees that they are missing out on during a suspension. But buyer trust and safety are worth more to both companies than a single seller’s fees. These businesses are built on trust, and can’t survive without it.
So, these interconnections are a fact of our new world. Scrutiny, accuracy, transparency, and accountability will only increase. Soon, an eBay or PayPal suspension might lead to other restrictions elsewhere. Only the “good” sellers and shoppers will survive, and that’s exactly what these companies want.
Is opening a stealth eBay account the solution?
When a suspension happens, it can take time to move past the pain and feel safe again. At this point, many sellers make the move to open eBay “stealth” or “ghost” accounts. This is a second eBay account, often from a third-party provider, which is unconnected to the first eBay account. The stealth account, in theory, provides a clean slate to continue trading.
Stealth accounts are all about brushing problems under the carpet, instead of facing them head-on. By using them, sellers continue the trauma and negativity of the first suspension indefinitely.
From a practical angle, if the underlying issues are not fixed, the stealth account may also be suspended in time. There’s also all the work needed to build up a new eBay account from scratch.
If you are caught using a stealth account to get around a suspension, there’s no innocent explanation you can give to eBay. Sellers often just fall into a repeating cycle of new stealth accounts and new suspensions.
How do you get back from an eBay account suspension?
On to the bright news. You can get reinstated on eBay, and you do it by being completely honest and transparent about what happened and what you are going to do. In other words, get real, and deal with the situation as it stands.
We like to say that Amazon Plans of Action won’t let you get real. They push you into admitting to things that didn’t really happen, and painting a picture of a plan that you can’t follow through. It’s not that way on eBay. Be realistic, be practical, and don’t lie.
Of course, what you have to do to get reinstated depends on the nature of your violation. But, here’s a plan that fits most sellers and most types of suspension:
1. Wait it out
Often, no matter what led to your account suspension, it’s best to wait until the suspension period has passed. In that time, you may call eBay but don’t badger for a reinstatement. Instead, use the time productively to identify and deal with the problems that lead to the suspension.
My clients often come to me because they have been suspended indefinitely, but they tell me about short suspensions they had in the past. Almost always they say the same thing: they called eBay, they didn’t get to the bottom of anything, and they resumed business as usual.
So, take short suspensions seriously. Wait it out, get to the bottom of the issue, and don’t start selling again until you have made real changes in your business. Otherwise, the next suspension might be forever.
A word to the wise: don’t try to open another account from a stealth provider. eBay will catch you, because they are smarter than those guys. Even if you do get away with it for a while, you will be living a life on the run, and that can come to a nasty end at any time.
How long should you wait for an indefinite suspension?
Indefinite suspensions are quite common on eBay, but they aren’t handed down lightly. It’s not like Amazon, when automated suspensions can happen even before a seller ships their first order. With eBay, there’s always a history to it. It might seem that it came in reaction to one customer complaint, but really that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
For an indefinite suspension, you also have to wait it out. I recommend that you sit on the sidelines for a year. Yes, a year.
Remember, eBay threw you off their system. They are not playing games. They’re not saying that if you call them and hassle them, they might change their mind. They have already resolved to never do business with you again.
But, after a year, you might actually have a chance at reinstatement. eBay may even reach out to you.
In that year, don’t become a wild buyer. Don’t attempt to open new accounts. Don’t hassle them. Ponder your future on and off eBay, and focus on other channels. Make the most of it.
When should you contact eBay straight away?
In our experience, we never met a suspended eBay seller who didn’t admit to at least part of what eBay stated as their reason for suspension.
But, there are some unusual circumstances when you should contact eBay immediately. For example:
- You genuinely, honestly, got suspended for nothing. eBay made a mistake.
- You were the victim or a fraud, burglary or other crime that led to your suspension.
But remember, there is usually a history leading up to a suspension, so just because the final straw wasn’t your fault doesn’t mean you weren’t responsible for the failings that led up to it.
If the suspension really wasn’t for a long-term, known issue, that eBay attempted to address many times before, then something odd happened. Under such circumstances, contact eBay right away.
2. Ask for help if you need it
If you are an eBay Store subscriber, at the Enterprise or Anchor level, remember that this includes dedicated customer support. Contact your Merchant Support Organization team as soon as possible.
If you are not sure about the suspension and reinstatement terms, contact eBay. Customer care will get in touch with you for clarification purposes. You can also call eBay to ask further questions. Explain the content of the suspension email to the customer support personnel and, if not satisfied, ask to speak with a manager.
Remember not to badger for a reinstatement. Ask what happened, ask for advice. Thank them for bringing your attention to the issue. Ask how to manage orders, and how to update inactive listings if required. Ask what steps you need to take to make sure your good listings become live again, after your suspension period.
3. Work on your plan
While you are waiting out your suspension, work on your plan. Follow the information in the suspension email to help figure out your next steps. Be authentic, and assume they know everything.
For example, for a VeRO issue:
- Speak with the rights owner and make an agreement with them.
- Destroy any data, images, etc. that were in violation of the rights holder’s intellectual property.
- Edit or delete your listings to conform to the rights-holder’s demands.
- Remove violating listings from your management software, so they can’t be posted back to eBay in the future.
- Send eBay a copy of the agreement and show them that the rights holder approved your changes.
Once you have your plan in order, and the suspension period has passed, it’s time to get in contact with eBay. Yes, selling privileges will be restored automatically, but it shows strong account governance to communicate your plan to them, and it will be recorded on your account for future reference.
4. Communicate with eBay
Remember, safety and trust is the main thing with eBay. Make sure you do all of the following when you contact them:
- Explain what happened, giving all the details of what went wrong.
- Say how you have solved the problem this time.
- Tell them how are you going to ensure that it will never happen again.
- Say what you have put in place to show your dedication to the eBay community.
Overall, give an articulate and authentic account of your situation, providing a detailed customer-centered plan.
Showcase that you are reliable and trustworthy. Show that you can handle fulfillment, and produce low returns. Show who you are, what you have done so far, and what you will do in the future, to regain your reputation.
Can you get back on eBay after an indefinite suspension?
Repeat offenders who don’t change their ways are heading for an indefinite suspension. Sellers whose business models center on getting away with poor practices, should expect an indefinite suspension from the start.
Once you receive an indefinite suspension, your pathways are as follows:
- If you genuinely did nothing wrong, contact eBay as soon as possible to find out what happened and if there’s anything you can do to resolve this.
- If you did do something wrong, they’ll probably tell you there’s nothing you can do to address the problem. So, focus elsewhere – for a year.
- After a year, contact eBay to let them know about the “new you”, and how eager you are to re-establish yourself on the marketplace. Ask if you may now appeal for reinstatement.
If eBay will accept an appeal, put together a plan as above. A response can take less than 2 weeks. The success of your appeal will always come back to the reason for the suspension, according to eBay’s account of the facts.
If your suspension was not for buying abuse, misuse of multiple accounts, or “gaming” eBay, you have a better chance. If your suspension was for crime, fraud, counterfeit, or VeRO issues you have a worse chance.
eBay’s perspective is all about preserving trust in the marketplace, not getting your account back as soon as possible.
It’s eBay’s world
Remember, work with eBay on their terms. Look for problems within your business, and make a genuine effort to address them, rather than just saying what you think they want to hear.
Every aspect of business, the world over, is moving to a more transparent model. Embrace that, and push your business to a higher level of integrity and customer service. If we can all do that, suspensions will never be necessary.
This post was by Mordechai Epelbaum, an independent eBay business consultant and Tuvyah Schleifer, the founder and CMO of CRSeller, a bespoke marketplace services provider.