Do you know the most dreaded email an Amazon seller can receive?
Did you know new Amazon sellers are getting suspended left and right?
Make sure to check out this week’s video to understand why thousands of new sellers are losing their accounts right after finishing the registration process.
For those of us who are already selling, suspension is still a legitimate fear -- just for different reasons.
This week, I’ve been studying how and why Amazon sellers get suspended.
The thought that all of my hard work could be flushed down the toilet (in one email!) scares me to death.
I’ve spent hour after hour reading horror stories. Here’s my takeaway:
Amazon sellers get suspended all the time, but about 95% of problems are preventable.
TONS of sellers are looking for ways to get their accounts unsuspended. Some pay thousands of dollars.
There are a few key things you SHOULDN’T do when writing an appeal
Understanding why you are suspended is the root of figuring out how to fix it. It can take hours of digging through your account to pinpoint the problem.
It doesn’t matter how much volume you sell, big sellers are suspended, too.
Many suspensions take at least a month for account recovery, but some cases are solved in 24 hours. It depends on the issue.
Most accounts can be reinstated from two suspensions. After that, it gets harder.
What sellers get suspensions for
Technically there are dozens of reasons Amazon sellers get suspended. However, in my own research I found more than 98% of suspensions fall under one of the following issues:
IP complaints happen when a company has a patent or trademark on the item you’re selling and reports you for selling the protected item. Many sellers don’t think this is an issue because of first sale doctrine, which states you can sell anything that you legally own. However, when you use Amazon’s platform you are subject to the rules they set. In short: You can sell whatever you want but you can’t control the rules of the website you’re using to sell.
Most (but not all) IP issues can be avoided by going through authorized wholesale channels. These issues mostly pop up when sellers buy liquidation or arbitrage inventory.
There are huge number of problems that fall under this banner, but the most common are leaking fluids that cause skin reactions (batteries, lotions), expiration dates, items that contain flammable properties, or items that have been recalled (particularly toys).
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you merchant fulfill products and consistently ship past the deadline, it’s a guarantee that your account will be suspended at some point. FBA sellers don’t need to worry about this one.
If you’re selling knock-offs, expect suspension to visit you soon. Even if you don’t, this is one of the reasons regular sellers get suspended. It doesn’t matter if your product is actually counterfeit or not, what matters is if a customer reports it’s a counterfeit. This isn’t 100% preventable, but make sure to always ship inventory in its original, factory packaging. This is one of the hardest suspensions to recover from.
Connected to another seller
If anybody at your current address has ever opened an Amazon account, Amazon can connect the dots and suspend you. This could be a family member, but it would also be the previous tenant of your location. Amazon can also catch this when multiple Amazon sellers use the same internet connection. Be cautious about anybody logging into their seller account at your home or place of business.
Item Condition (Not as described)
If enough customers complain about the condition of one of your ASIN’s (packaging, usefulness, or otherwise) Amazon will sometimes issue a warning about your product, or suspend you from the listing. Suspensions usually happen when complaints build up around 3-4 ASINS over a year span. This can’t always be prevented since customers are given the option to choose “not as described” when they return an item. Luckily, this suspension is one of the easier ones to recover from.
Writing an appeal
When you’re suspended, Amazon will give you an option to write them a letter appealing the decision. This is absolutely necessary as Amazon doesn’t resolve issues over the phone.
For the most part, Amazon tells you exactly what needs to be addressed. This usually includes a plan of action to solve the issue at hand, and another plan to prevent issues going forward. Don’t write the same thing for each section. Amazon is looking for two different resolutions.
Here’s the basic letter format:
Hello [insert Amazon team here],
It has been brought to my attention there have been customer issues with [insert ASIN’s here]. I apologize for this problem. My team and I are working to correct the situation as soon as possible.
After looking into the situation, I found this issue was caused by ___________. We take full responsibility for this, and are implementing the following steps to fix the problem at hand.
[insert 3-4 specific steps]
In addition, we do not want this problem to surface again. Here are the steps we’re taking to prevent future problems:
[insert 3-4 specific steps]
Thanks for your time. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can provide for you to help expedite the account reinstatement process.
Make sure to customize this letter to your specific situation, adding in all relevant details. Amazon isn’t looking for a book -- they want direct, concise points that are easy to skim over. Get your points across in as few words as possible, leaving out complaints or excuses. If you blame Amazon for your issue, it’s almost a guaranteed you will get a form email asking you for a new plan of action.
Also go into the process knowing Amazon doesn’t care about you as a seller. As harsh as it sounds, they don’t want to hear that your business and finances are on the line. The appeal process is very technical -- sob stories hurt your appeal more than help it.
How long does it take to lift a suspension?
The short answer is, it depends. Different suspensions are handled by different amazon selling teams. Depending on the time of year and how busy the team is, the answer to this question can vary widely.
My own research concluded the process averages about 3 weeks. However, some sellers (especially with minor issues) have accounts reinstated in less than 48 hours.
Amazon is not a business, it’s a platform for your business model. I can’t say this enough -- make sure to diversify your revenue streams. If you already have good products, chances are they will sell on other platforms (think Etsy, Ebay, Walmart, etc). If you don’t maintain good cash flow, a 30-day suspension can completely kill your business.
As always, thanks for going on this journey with me. Watch out for next week’s post, where I’ll give an update on how my journey is going (with real numbers!)