Account suspension is an everyday occurrence on Amazon, but to merchants it can still come as a shock. Few sellers know if they’re on the ‘light’ or ‘dark side’ of Amazon when it comes to the integrity of their accounts. And actually, even with a clear record historically, you can still be subject to performance notifications, trigged by policy robots. Too many of them inside a short period of time can actually get your selling privileges suspended, even when the problematic orders you’ve had represent an insignificant percentage of your overall number of orders.
Here are some of the most common errors which usually trigger notifications and point out to Amazon that you are not running a sustainable business model:
Failing to check your items against the Amazon product restriction guidelines
A tip that could’ve saved countless businesses over the years: Unless you know for a fact that you can sell it on Amazon, don’t sell it.
What are the worst ways to justify selling something on Amazon?
- Someone else is already selling it.
- The product was recommended on a seller forum, Facebook group, or other online resource.
- It seems obvious that you can sell it. I mean why couldn’t you sell it?
These are not legitimate sources. Here’s why:
- Rules change over time.
- Different sellers have different permissions.
- People on the Internet are sometimes wrong.
- Amazon rules aren’t always obvious or logical.
The best way to know what can and can’t be listed is to review Amazon’s guidelines on restricted products.
If you haven’t paid a lot of attention to this in the past, make sure you do a thorough clean-up of your inventory to discard all prohibited items as soon as possible. Search for insights from other sellers with similar types of inventory. And keep in mind each category comes with its own challenges. For instance, a lot of items in the Health and Personal Care or Beauty categories on Amazon are prohibited, although not advertized as such in their Guidelines, such as products containing tinosorb, or products containing more than 2% hydroquinone, etc. Learn from other people’s experience and do not list something in this category unless you are 100% sure it goes by some basic rules:
- it has been approved by the FDA or the relevant national authority
- it is not a prescription drug
- it does not claim to cure incurable diseases
- it does not contain undeclared ingredients or active ingredients forbidden by Amazon.
Apply the same for any category and you should be fine. A notification about failing to comply with Amazon policy on restricted items might not get you suspended, but several will.
Being oblivious to your stock origin and authenticity
Demand to know your supply chain. Learn the ins and outs – what makes your suppliers tick, where they source their merchandise, what guarantees they can offer, how they can prove the authenticity of their products, and how willing they are to foster long-term business relationships. Research their competitors, and be prepared to switch at any moment.
One of your customers/competitors may claim an item in your inventory is a fake or that you don’t have selling rights on it. Do you have an invoice from an authorized distributor/manufacturer for everything you sell? An itemized invoice might be your best shot at getting your account reinstated, if Amazon decides to suspend you.
When the property right owner, an authorized dealer or even a buyer decides to write to Amazon, or Amazon reads in their communication that they suspect your inventory to be counterfeit, your listing is to be closed without any further investigation. Amazon is bound to ask for invoices from the supplier for that specific item; bulk invoices and receipts from liquidations are usually refused, and the selling rights on that listing not reinstated. It is also very hard to fight the suspension of an account for such reasons, if it happens. That is why it is recommended that you actually have itemized invoices with verifiable supplier information, especially for really popular products, from large brands or products that are easily counterfeited. You can also advertize that you purchase from a reliable source in your seller comments.
Sometimes when you’re lucky, the intellectual property right owner may contact you before going to Amazon to ask you to close a listing. What is best to do when you get an email of this type is not to ignore it (even if you don’t believe it’s legit), but actually investigate to see if there are any restrictions on the sale or re-sale of the item in question. Take the problem to your suppliers too whenever possible. Amazon may advise you to ignore them when they are not filed as official claim through themselves, but they will not refrain from suspending your selling activity, if several claims do reach them instead of your email only. So better safe than sorry.
Failing to ensure a 100% match of your product to all the details in the Product Detail Page on Amazon
You can easily get kicked off of Amazon if you try to sell an item that is even slightly different than what the Amazon catalog page shows. Make sure you check not only the ASIN/UPC match, but the product detail section, the bullet points and the product description. When still in doubt, you can actually go over the reviews on a page too; they might prove useful when it comes to functionality or components.
Although nobody wants to create a new page that has no Sales Rank and that might be hard for buyers to find, it is the safest thing to do. Better use promotions for a while, to make your new inventory known to buyers, than risk having your listing (or even your account) closed for failure to comply with Amazon policy. Remember that mentioning the differences in your listing or item’s condition notes will not save you from getting suspended.
When such a thing is brought to your attention, check your remaining stock for the product in question. Check for the sale history, for the previous orders and possible complaints you had. Identify the problem and see if you need to adjust the listing or create a new page. If doing FBA, do not hesitate to open case with Amazon to check the remaining stock for similar issues. Remember such a notification can also mean you simply sent an item with say, missing supplements, so perhaps a stricter quality checking process will be enough to keep you safe.
Improperly matching your stock condition to the Amazon Condition Guidelines
Don’t list something as New and then mention that the item is missing the original box or has whatever other flaw. Get familiar with the guidelines for every category and condition. Otherwise, sooner or later, a customer is quite likely to complain, and you only need 2 or 3 of these officially filed complaints to get suspended.
Run a full check of your stock when you get such a warning message. See if several buyers complain about this item in particular and figure out if it is easily damageable in transit, or if it needs downgrading if subject to a long shelf life, or if the error was singular only. Extend the checking to similar items or, if at all possible, to your whole inventory. You might find you actually need to change a supplier instead of giving up on one product only, if the items coming from that source are usually damaged. When doing FBA, create removal orders for the items your customers return; they may provide valuable information on what precisely you need to correct about a product.
Mind that commingled inventory if you’re doing FBA. Should you decide to have commingled inventory, then consider the fact that an FBA order can just as well be fulfilled using your goods or someone else’s, and that the choice is up to Amazon. Unfortunately, if a faulty item is sent back by the customer, this could count against you even if the merchandise was not yours. That’s because merchandise from countless sellers is bundled up together, and Amazon wouldn’t be able to tell one from the other. So, opting for commingled inventory means that you share responsibility for its integrity with strangers, and not being able to see what others send into an FBA warehouse yourself puts your Amazon account at risk. It’s always safer to choose the Labeled Inventory Option.
If you’re tempted to let third parties, suppliers or partners do the shipping for you, think it through. As an Amazon seller, you can only make your mark by providing an outstanding product or service. When you let other businesses do the packaging, shipping, customer support or sourcing for you, your quality control is minimal. Despite that Amazon guidelines say drop-shipping is not necessarily bad practice provided that certain conditions are met (you must always be the seller of record of your products, identify yourself as the seller of your products on all packing slips and other information included or provided in connection with them, be responsible for accepting and processing customer returns of your products), such a business model is easily frowned upon.
How would Amazon catch it?
Easiest way for Amazon to figure out you’re doing any of the above? Automated reading of complaints, of course.
With so much time and effort put into running an Amazon account, many sellers take account suspension and listing closure personally. But we’ve found along the years that Amazon representatives have very little to do with it, and that policy robots are the ones that generate notifications. Amazon’s bots can make mistakes, so it’s important to keep calm, and focus all your energy into proving them wrong. Remember that notifications sent by Amazon are based on automated keyword identification. So, clearing your name and reinstating your selling privileges for the whole inventory or for a specific item can be as easy as identifying those tricky blacklisted keywords.
To exemplify, reading the term ‘fake’ or ‘counterfeit’ in a buyer’s communication to you would lead to a listing closure because of selling inauthentic items; similarly, ‘damaged’ could lead to a ‘Used item sold as new’ notification, ‘missing’ could trigger an ‘Incomplete item’ notification. Furthermore, if Amazon robots match words in your listings with keywords designating a hazmat, such as ‘oxidizer’, ‘flammable’, ‘explosive’, ‘corrosive’, etc., you could be facing a Restricted Items notification. For example, we know of one Amazon seller who’s had his listing shut down for selling a book with the word ‘asbestos’ in the title, and the examples are numerous.
Amazon policy robots can overlook the words ‘not’, ‘no’, ‘without’, ‘any’, or even common abbreviations, such as ‘w/o’. So phrases like ‘not fake’, ‘without any missing parts’, ‘no damaged components’, etc., can still trigger a notification.
Keep all this in mind when you investigate the reason behind your suspension or notification, and search for them in every section of your account, including emails, feedback, product reviews, condition notes, product descriptions, bullet points, item titles.
If you’ve covered the investigation phase, then by now you’d know what triggered the alerts for the Amazon robots. With this in mind, it should be easy to formulate a plan of action to get your listing unsuspended. Suggest targeted and down to earth solutions, such as: will better wrap the products, will assign more people to check the condition of the inventory, will check functionality of the item before sending it out, will change supplier, etc.
What’s more, each notification needs to be dealt with individually and promptly, even if Amazon’s mistake is obvious. Also, however confident you may be that your product complies with current policies, don’t put it back up for sale until Amazon agrees to lift your restriction. And stay safe from shady business practices. With Amazon’s continuous efforts to please buyers at all costs and add restrictions to their policy for merchants, it is very likely you won’t last long unless you are 100% proactive and prepared.
Back in 2002, SellerEngine came up with the first fully automated Amazon inventory management tool. Since then, they’ve developed a suite of applications for Amazon sellers, and aimed at helping people grow their online retail businesses on Amazon Marketplaces. They back up the versatile software suite with a range of consultancy services such as Account Rescue, International Expansion, Performance Tune-up, and Customer Support Services. This guest blog post is about business models that pose suspension risks, and how Amazon has no trouble seeing right through them.
Our services team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; drop us a note if you need help to get you up and running on Amazon again, or if you’re looking for guidance to help grow your business. More information about our products and services can be found here.
Disclaimer: The information and views presented in this blog post are the opinions of the guest author, and not necessarily those of 888 Lots.