Help! I’ve been suspended on Amazon!

Amazon cares a lot about its reputation as a superbly customer-friendly company. So when it comes across sellers who aren’t customer-friendly, who break the rules, and who make Amazon look bad, it quite often decides it doesn’t need them on board.

If your entire business gets put on hold, it’s incredibly stressful. Your whole livelihood could be at risk. It will be a lot less stressful, though, if you have a plan that you’ve already put in place for how to sort things out.

You might just have one product that’s been suspended. Sometimes, this happens because Amazon has changed product categories and you have ended up with a product in a ‘gated’ category that you aren’t registered to supply. Sometimes, it’s because Amazon is worried about overly promotional words in the product listing, or because you’ve used keywords that make your product ‘feel’ like a controlled product such as a pesticide, even if it isn’t one.

Sometimes, you might have one product suspended because it has a negative customer experience score that’s way higher than its competitors. Or Amazon might think you’re selling counterfeits.

You’ll get an email notification and be told the reason the product has been pulled, and you will need to resolve any issues before having the product reinstated. You can also appeal if you think Amazon is wrong. But sometimes, making a few changes is all it takes; for instance, taking out a few keywords and changing your product description. Or you can produce your trademark paperwork to show you’re entitled to sell the product.

When Amazon suspends your entire account, it’s really bad news. That can happen if you repeatedly and severely transgress the rules. (Leading historian Orlando Figes wrote up his own good reviews and panned other historians’ books. He ended up being sued for damages by the other authors. Fortunately, his publisher wasn’t responsible and didn’t end up getting banned.)

Generally, there are two kinds of people who get banned. One kind are the people who break the rules, trying to be clever and find loopholes, or just hope they’ll get away with it. If you’ve actually been selling fake Gucci and Louis Vuitton, that’s going to be hard to explain.

Sometimes, they try to open a new account with a different name on it. Amazon are pretty wise to this, and if an account uses the same bank details, name, address, email, or even web access, they’ll be on to it pretty fast.

Just occasionally, Amazon makes a mistakes and confuses accounts. You might get caught that way, in which case you’ll obviously want to appeal – with as much explanation and evidence provided to Amazon as you can possibly provide.

The second kind of people who get suspended are those whose operational metrics are below par. For instance, you’ve had a string of returns for some reason. You’ll want to put together a plan of action. Don’t just fire off an angry email, take the following steps to plead a compelling case:

•      First of all,  read the suspension notice carefully to find out exactly what the issue is. It may not even be something you knew about (although you should have). Work out how it happened. Was there an honest mistake? Is it a supplier error? Explain this in your letter, so the Amazon rep doesn’t have to look everything up.

•      Acknowledge the problem and assure Amazon you understand how it impacted your customers, and that you’re taking it seriously.

•      Explain how the problem occurred. For instance: “My supplier appears to have mislabeled the products in its latest delivery so that an incorrect color is stated on some of the boxes. This has led to a high rate of customer returns.”

•      Then think about how you can address the root cause. How can you stop the problem recurring? Check your account standing and performance metrics; what got you suspended? Was it a one-off issue or a slight worsening of already bad data?

•      Tell Amazon what you’re going to do; for instance, “We will be recalling all products in this line to check that the box labels represent the correct colors, and this should avoid future returns.”

•      If you can give two or three different measures you’ll take, that’s even better than one. For instance, you might add that you’ll be talking to all your suppliers, and getting an independent inspector to check the products.

•      Give details of when you expect to have this work completed. You need to be able to convince Amazon that you’re able to get these things done, and that they will have the right result.

•      Don’t stop there. Your sign-off should stress your commitment to customer care and to providing better service.

•      File your appeal with Amazon – and wait. Don’t keep mailing to find out what’s going on (unless you don’t hear for a week or so; then a polite message might be in order).

About three-quarters of the time, if you’ve thought things through properly, Amazon will reinstate your product or account pretty fast – even within 24 hours.

Even if you think Amazon got things wrong, you’ll want to provide them with convincing evidence. For instance, you might have certification paperwork, trademark filings, or other evidence you can provide.

If your appeal is refused, you’ll need to escalate. Read very carefully through the email and make sure you understand the reasons for refusal.

If you escalate the decision, particularly in the case of an account suspension, it’s like going to the Supreme Court. You really need help from someone who’s been through the process before, as your livelihood is potentially at stake.

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