Have you recently gotten your Amazon account suspended?
People are used to buying blindly from Amazon, because they know that Amazon will always bend over backward to keep them happy. It goes without saying that if the customer comes first, this automatically puts sellers next in line (or last).
In other words, if there was ever an ultimatum that forced Amazon to choose between a customer and an Amazon seller, the Amazon seller will bite the dust almost every single time.
So, back to the issue at hand. Your Amazon seller account’s suspension. This post is meant to be a full guide to suspensions. I’ll first lay out the different “types” of suspensions for you.
Then, I’ll break down a step-by-step approach to hopefully getting your account reinstated. Once that is done, I’ll cover things you can do to try and stay on Amazon’s good side moving forward, so you can minimize the risk of further issues. This post will also refer to real-life cases where a seller got suspended and was able to get their account reinstated.
Alright, then. Let’s get started.
Suspended, Denied or Banned?
With Amazon, these terms aren’t really used interchangeably. Each one is a different case and is used in a specific situation.
This is the first “step” among those three terms. When you get suspended, it means that Amazon has revoked your ability to sell on the platform. Your current listings are not publicly visible and you obviously cannot publish new ones. When you’re notified of a suspension, you’re usually given a broad reason and are allowed to “appeal” the decision.
This happens after you submit an appeal to a suspension. It basically means that you failed to convince the Amazon Seller Performance Team (we’ll call it ASPT) rep that you understood the problem, have taken responsibility for it and have taken or are planning to take corrective measures to make sure it does not happen again. This is not the end of the road, though, as you’re allowed to submit multiple appeals.
This is usually considered the end of the road and it happens after submitting multiple appeals that consistently fail to win the ASPT over. In this case, they usually send you a strong-worded “bye bye” email that ends in something along the lines of “We may not respond to further emails about this matter.”, which really is just a polite way of saying that they’re done wasting time with you.
While this is “officially” the end of the road, some sellers have reported that an email to Jeff Bezos helped them get reinstated. I’ll cover this in more detail later on but in any case, it’s important to note that this should only be used as a last resort when you’ve exhausted all other options and have nothing to lose.
Step 1: Investigating the Reasons Behind the Suspension
There are four main categories for the reasons that could lead to an account suspension:
- Poor Performance.
- “Seller Code of Conduct” Violation.
- Amazon Restricted-Product Rules Violation.
- The “Unspoken Rules”.
Let’s break them down.
Amazon tracks three main metrics in this area and provides recommendations as to what your numbers should look like to avoid suspensions or at least scrutiny. No good can ever come from the Seller Performance team snooping around inside your account, even if they don’t decide to suspend you.
So the three metrics are:
- Order Defect Rate (below 1%).
- Late Shipment Rate (below 4%).
- Pre-fulfillment Cancellation Rate (below 2.5%).
These are obviously all percentages. The first one Order Defect Rate “ODR”, relates to the percentage of chargebacks, negative ratings (1 and 2 stars) or A-Z guarantee claims. High ODR percentages usually indicate product quality issues or a description-item mismatch. For instance, claiming features that don’t exist or don’t function as described, or raising the buyer’s expectations in the description and images then under-delivering on the promises.
The Late Shipment Rate “LSR” is calculated by dividing the number of shipments that are confirmed to be “shipped” after their ship date by the total number of orders. Amazon customers are accustomed to super fast shipping, especially with Amazon Prime’s one and two-day shipping options spoiling them. Items that are confirmed shipped after their ship date also cannot be tracked, which can cause a lot of customer grief. This is why Amazon does not compromise on this.
A relatively easy way to solve this issue if you’re struggling with it is to use FBA or Fulfillment by Amazon so that you save yourself the headache of fulfilling the orders yourself and leave it all to Amazon.
Finally, the Prefulfilment Cancellation Rate “PCR”. This is calculated by dividing the number of orders canceled by the seller before confirming shipment by the number of total orders in that period. Order cancellations are frustrating because customers usually “set and forget” Amazon orders and just wait for delivery.
Cancellations can be greatly inconvenient because the customer may need to re-order from another seller, plus the added inconvenience of the time taken for the refund to reflect on their card, and the time they wasted ordering from you.
The Seller Code of Conduct
Amazon’s selling policies and seller’s code of conduct are 7 principles (as of writing this) that all sellers should adhere to. The principles are purposely very broad to cover a lot of situations, so it’s safe to say that there are thousands of “unspoken” rules that could lead to a suspension. More on that in the “Unspoken Rules” section.
Among the 7 principles, as per the Amazon help article, are “adhere to all applicable laws and abide by all Amazon policies”, “keep your account information current”, “never misrepresent yourself”, “act fairly at all times”.
As you can see, these “principles” are too broad that they sound like the kind of advice your parents give you during elementary school. That is a tad scary because it gives Amazon a lot of power and flexibility with their “banning options”.
Amazon Restricted-Product Rules Violation
Amazon currently has over 35 restricted product categories. Selling in each of these categories may have its own subset of rules, like a pre-approval requirement from Amazon. Violating these rules is a definite cause for account suspension.
The Unspoken Rules
By now it should already be clear to you which of the rules you had violated that caused your suspension. You could piece together information from the emails they sent you as well as your notifications in seller central and the content this blog post has covered so far.
You might be asking yourself, though, even if I get reinstated, with these very broad rules, what’s to stop me from getting suspended again? There’s a section about this later in this post. However, there is a single principle that should really help you stay on Amazon’s good side. In one sentence: How can I make (and keep) the customer ecstatic?
Think of customers as Amazon’s boss. There’s a reason why they’re so successful. If customers are Amazon’s boss and Amazon is your boss (you as in the seller), then the customer is technically your boss too.
In other words, as long as you keep the customer HAPPY (preferably ecstatic), you’ll seldom face any issues with Amazon, with some exceptions of course, like selling trademarked products. But, as long as, with every business decision you make, you’re thinking: is this in the best interest of customers? If your answer is yes, your relationship with Amazon will have a greatly better chance of being a “happily ever after”.
Step 2: Digging Into The Reasons Behind The Reasons
The important task at hand now, is to identify what actually caused the reasons for the suspension, aka “the reasons behind the reasons”.
For instance, if it’s product quality issues, were the complaints coming in since you launched the product or have they just recently appeared? Maybe the problem is with a specific bad batch of products, or the supplier is having quality control issues, or maybe the items got damaged somehow en route from the supplier to your destination.
Are your shipments constantly getting delayed? Identify the problem with your warehouse employees, shipping carriers or fulfillment centers. Try to be as specific as possible when getting to the roots of the problem.
Did this happen on specific dates? To specific customers? Specific addresses or states? What was the exact problem at your warehouse? Was a key employee sick or on a holiday? Specific information that shows you’re well informed in every aspect of your business is important.
In any case, you need to really dig in and find the exact problem. This will help you later because Amazon really likes details. They want to know that your serious about your business and that you’d go above and beyond to identify and kill the issue all the way down to the roots.
Step 3: Plan of Action (The Holy Grail)
I’ve specifically added the “Holy Grail” part to this heading to indicate how critical this section is. The Plan of Action (POA) that you submit to Amazon’s Seller Performance Team is thoroughly read and reviewed and plays the biggest role in deciding whether your suspension is to be lifted or not.
You need to be thorough but concise. Simply being apologetic and telling Amazon “sorry, lesson learned, it won’t happen again!” won’t be remotely enough to get your suspension lifted.
Here are the key points to writing a successful POA:
- Clearly explain the reason for the suspension to show that you understand the violation.
- Take responsibility and do not make excuses, criticize Amazon or deflect blame.
- Identify the causes of the problems and explain the steps taken to rectify and prevent these issues from occurring again in an action plan.
- Try to steer clear from broad terms and estimations like “often”, “sometimes”, “a little”…etc. Give them concrete numbers, dates, and facts that show you’ve made the effort and that you’re in the left, right and center of what’s going on.
- Do not respond in a rush and do not write sob stories or start pointing fingers at anyone (consumer, Amazon, other sellers…etc). Be concise, be professional, and stick to the facts. The last thing you want to do is to get all cocky, demanding, sarcastic or be a drama queen on Amazon.
- Make sure you address ALL violations. Go through your account and look at older notices/warnings you may have missed or ignored. Make sure you get them resolved and documented if they aren’t. You really don’t want to go back and forth several times with Amazon, it greatly increases your chances of reinstatement if you get it right the first time.
So what to write exactly? Ryan Grant posted a great “case study” of his experience with the Amazon suspension and how he got it lifted. He’s also offering the exact same POA he used as a free PDF download for inspiration. Definitely check it out.
So what kind of template can you use? Something like this can work:
- Greeting and introductory paragraph thanking them for the opportunity to appeal, acknowledging and taking responsibility for the issues and inconvenience caused to the customers and apologizing for these issues.
- Identifying the general reason for the suspension, and then listing the issues you’ve identified in your business (as per step 2) that you think have contributed to the suspension, preferably in bullet-pointed format.
- A line stating that the actions you’re taking to rectify those issues are as follows, and also possibly adding those issues in bullet-point format right under that line.
- Thanking them for their time and consideration, then your signature.
- Depending on the actions you’ve taken to rectify the issue, you may want to include a detailed plan at the end of your letter. For instance, details about exact changes to internal processes and guidelines. Ryan Grant states that this may have contributed to the decision to overturn his suspension.
Once you’re done, login to seller central and browse to your suspension notification, then click “Appeal Decision” to submit your appeal. Seller Performance states they can take up to 48 hours to respond to your appeal, but they rarely stick to that deadline nowadays probably because of the sheer volume of appeals they receive on a daily basis.
Be patient and never send them consecutive emails/appeals without hearing back. If you do this, you risk getting the dreaded “we’re done with you, bye bye” email. In that case, your chances for getting the suspension lifted are almost completely gone.
Professional Account Reinstatement Services
Submitting an Amazon appeal is not really rocket science, but some people may be too anxious, unsure or need some hand-holding and guidance throughout the whole process. In this case, you may want to take advantage of an “Amazon Seller Account Reinstatement Service”.
A couple of points worth noting here, though. If you decide to take advantage of these services, the earlier you hire them, the better your chances will generally be. The obvious reason being if you’ve already submitted appeals and messed things up, you make it increasingly complex for the agency you hired to do their job. Additionally, they will most likely charge you more money in that case.
For that reason, be careful if you’re thinking “I’ll just give it a shot and if it doesn’t work, no harm done, I’ll just hire someone to help”. Doesn’t always work like that.
The Last Resort
A guest post on Alex Borisenko’s medium blog told an interesting story about a $60K/mo Amazon seller getting suspended and later being reinstated. The post mentions that ultimately, and when everything else failed, what got the account reinstated is an email to Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos. There’s no solid proof that this was the doing of the Bezos email, but it’s hard to imagine that it’s a coincidence after everything else had failed.
According to an Amazon engineer responding to a question on Quora, Jeff Bezos seldom reads his email personally. At least not those “complaint-type” emails. Two “executive escalation” teams handle Bezos’ them. One team responsible for customer complaints and the other for seller complaints. The post referenced above states something similar as well.
Why only as a last resort?
The reason I specifically mention this is because if you go over everybody’s heads to the “escalation” teams and then they don’t rule in your favor, you’re probably done. That’s why it might be a much better approach to exhaust all options with the seller performance team, whether personally or through a specialized agency. When all else fails and you have nothing to lose anyway, you might try out the “email Bezos” approach.
What Not to Do After a Suspension
So the above explains what to do when you get suspended. This post wouldn’t be complete without telling you what NOT to do, though.
Amazon is always holding all the cards and they know it. Do one of these things or more, and you risk messing up your chances of ever getting back on the platform for good.
Opening a new account
The last thing you want to do is open a new account once your account is suspended. Amazon is clever and has a multitude of different ways to track you and link your old account with the new one. This action may also kill your chances of getting your appeal approved on the old account.
Even if you do manage to get a new account set up with completely different personal details and a fresh laptop/IP/user, you’ll be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life, literally! That’s no way to build a sustainable business. At least that’s how I see it.
Threaten, blame, criticize or be rude in any way
Some sellers may choose to get attorneys involved and have them contact Seller Performance on their behalf. This will typically delay the process and may sometimes prompt Seller Performance to stop responding to emails until the seller personally gets in touch with them.
It may be a good idea to get attorneys involved with infringement suspensions though, as if the attorney can get the complaining party to withdraw the claim, this can then be communicated by the seller to Seller Performance and hopefully reach a positive outcome.
Being rude to Seller Performance can also cause delays and complications in the appeals process. This should be obvious but a lot of sellers get so frustrated and let their emotions get the best of them. If you get suspended, take your time to cool down and focus on writing an effective appeal. It’s probably not a good idea to start writing the appeal the moment you get hit with the suspension notice.
Emailing seller support or submitting multiple appeals
Seller Performance often doesn’t respond with any confirmation when receiving a seller’s appeal. This could lead to some sellers becoming nervous and deciding to email them several times. This can cause further delays and is not advisable.
Additionally, it’s important to note that the Seller Performance team is the only team that handles suspensions and has any authority on what happens to your account from that point onwards. Typical seller support will usually be of no help.
In fact, they may do more harm than good by offering misleading advice. They’re a separate team from Seller Performance and can provide minimal help in this case.
Don’t modify, fabricate or edit any requested documents
Again this really goes without saying but you may find yourself inclined to do some “modifications” to documents requested by Amazon to make them “look better” or “fit” what Amazon wants.
This is generally a bad idea. Remember that Seller Performance does this on a daily basis. It’s their bread and butter, so telling whether an invoice or document was manipulated in any way or not is not that much of a challenge for them
The risks greatly outweigh the benefits in this regard, especially because manipulating documents, if caught, adds an additional “forged/manipulated” strike to your seller account that makes your case significantly harder to resolve.
It’s better to stick to the truth here and state how you’ll resolve the issues in questions moving forward. For example, if you’re drop shipping, you can say that you’ll be buying stock and using a fulfillment service or Amazon FBA. It would help if you include details about how you’d go about doing this or anything that would show your seriousness to Amazon.
Tips to Avoid Future Suspensions (linked)
At this point, you’ve hopefully followed the advice in this article and have either gotten your account back or are waiting to. If you’re still waiting, I feel the pain and wish you the best of luck in getting reinstated.
It doesn’t end here, though. There are a few things you can do to keep your account in good standing once you get it back on its feet. Here are some quick tips:
- Adopt Amazon’s approach. Always, ALWAYS put your customer first, even if it means you’ll have to compensate them out of pocket at times. Your profit will more than compensate for this and you should write it off as a regular and expected business expense.
- Maintain excellent customer support. If a package is going to be delayed, get in front of the issue and communicate it with the customer rather than waiting for them to get in touch, or worse, filing a complaint with Amazon. Always stay on top of issues and respond professionally and patiently. Simply model after what Amazon does and you’ll be fine.
- Either find a good inventory management system, or opt to use Amazon FBA. Either way, you have to be strict with inventory management otherwise you risk messing up performance metrics and getting your account suspended.
- The Amazon seller app is handy because you’ll receive and read notifications faster, and hence be able to act on them faster as well.
- Amazon policies change frequently. It’s a daunting task, but try to always make sure your listings and selling practices comply. “Sorry I didn’t know” or “I forgot to update” is not really an acceptable excuse to Amazon.
- Stay on top of your performance reports. Detect issues and “negative trends” early on and act quickly. Don’t wait for a suspension to prompt you to take action.
An Amazon Seller suspension is a painful experience, especially if it’s the main source of income that you depend on to support yourself and your family. Pain, anger and disbelief are all common emotions a seller may go through when this happens.
Because of this, more often than not, sellers will act out of emotion and mess things up further. It’s a good thing that you’re reading this right now, it probably means you’re ready to act rationally and are researching what to do.
Forget all the emotions and all the defensive stances you want to take and just convince yourself that it’s all your fault, even if you think it isn’t. Then, craft up your appeal and convince Amazon that you’ll make things right.
That’s it. Looking forward to seeing your listings back up and running on the Amazon marketplace!