Getting suspended on Amazon is something I'm sure you'll want to avoid at all costs, yet more and more businesses each year are facing this exact fate. Although the process of getting your Amazon account suspended isn’t totally avoidable, here you’ll find a number of steps you can take to prevent this happening to your business.
What does it mean?
Having a suspended account means that Amazon have identified an issue, or have reason to believe you are not a reliable seller. They then remove all your seller privileges until you can contact them with an appeal to try and get your account back. There are many reasons why Amazon may decide to suspend your account, it could be due to:
- Poor customer feedback
- Late shipping rate
- Late dispatch rate
- A number of unresolved issues with buyers
- Buyers have complained to Amazon directly
This means it's very important to keep up with a number of things to ensure your account is not suspended, take a look at these important steps you can take.
Firstly, selling restricted items on Amazon is a very easy way of getting your account suspended. If you supply goods on Amazon, you should carefully read the restricted products help pages before listing a product.
Amazon also encourages sellers to consult with their legal counsel if they have questions about the laws and regulations concerning their products. You can view the complete list of restricted products here.
You will need to look at the condition of an item and ensure that the products condition is described as accurately as possible. It’s essential that the item you are listing is the exact item that the buyer receives in the post, otherwise this could lead to poor feedback. Amazon's guidelines suggest that these items are prohibited for sale:
- Items that do not work perfectly in every way and are not clean, including signs of mould, heavy staining or corrosion.
- Item is damaged in a way that renders it difficult to use.
- Item is missing essential accompanying material or parts or requires repair or service.
- The item was not created by the original manufacturer or copyright holder. This includes copies, counterfeits, replicas and imitations.
- Item was originally distributed as a promotional copy, promotional bundle, product sample or advance reading copy. This includes uncorrected proofs of in-print or not-yet-published books.
- Any aspect of the item is unclear and cannot be read or viewed because of markings, stickers or other damage.
- The item has passed the expiry, best by and sell by dates, has n unacceptable portion of its shelf life remaining or has had the expiry date removed or tampered with.
- The item is prohibited for sale on Amazon.
When checking an item’s condition, be completely honest with the condition it’s in otherwise, you may be at risk of bad customer feedback (more on this later). Amazon currently offers 6 options when describing the condition of an item:
A brand-new, unused, unopened item in its original packaging, with all original packaging materials, included. The item should have its original protective wrapping, if any. The original manufacturer's warranty, if any, should still apply, with warranty details included in the listing comments.
A refurbished product that has been professionally restored to working order. Typically, this means that the product has been inspected, cleaned and repaired to meet manufacturer specifications. The item does not have to be in the original packaging. The manufacturer's or refurbishers warranty must apply and should be included in the listing comments. Refurbished items are sometimes referred to as remanufactured.
Used - Like New:
An apparently untouched item in perfect condition. Original protective wrapping may be missing, but the original packaging is intact and pristine. There are absolutely no signs of wear on the item or its packaging. Instructions are included, the item can be suitable as a gift.
Used - Very Good:
A well-cared-for item that hasn't been used a great deal but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked and undamaged, but may show small signs of wear, the item should also work perfectly.
Used - Good:
The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. It may be marked, have identifying markings on it or show other signs of previous use.
Used - Acceptable:
The item is fairly worn but continues to work perfectly, there are signs of wear such as scratches, dents and worn corners. The item may have identifying markings on it or showother signs of obvious use.
These guidelines are for everyday products, for more specific items such as software, electronics and home entertainment can be found here.
The way you treat your customers - loyal or new - can seriously affect how buyers view your business. Amazon wants to keep its customers happy, so if you make a mistake, it makes Amazon look bad too, think of it this way – your customers are also Amazon’s customers. Here are a few ways you can keep customer service to a high quality:
- Respond to Messages as Soon as You Can
Make sure that you are keeping an eye out for messages buyers (and Amazon) send you. The quicker you respond to messages, the more likely you are to receive positive feedback. You should never underestimate the power of word of mouth. If you are unresponsive to messages, there is a strong chance Amazon will remove your seller privileges.
- Daily Checks On Your Metrics
- Monitor ANY Third-Party Services
Stay in close contact with any third-party integrations you have, whether its couriers or software systems managing your entire business. It’s essential that communication is made otherwise, it’s a very slippery slope if anything were to go wrong and you weren’t there to fix it.
- Make Sure Feedback is Completely Organic
Organic feedback and reviews mean that the positive or negative feedback has come straight from the buyer and the seller has played no part in that feedback, apart from the service. Amazon banned the use of incentivised reviews back in 2016, meaning discounted or free products cannot be exchanged for positive reviews. Chee Chew - Head of Amazon Customer Experience - made this statement back in October 2016 when the change was made:
“Customer reviews are one of the most valuable tools we offer customers for making informed purchase decisions, and we work hard to make sure they are doing their job. In just the past year, we’ve improved review ratings by introducing a machine-learned algorithm that gives more weight to newer, more helpful reviews; applying stricter criteria to qualify for the Amazon verified purchase badge; and suspending, banning or suing thousands of individuals for attempting to manipulate reviews”.
It’s very important to keep positive feedback as organic as possible because if any seller is caught bribing or manipulating buyers for the positive feedback, their account will be suspended and it may be tricky to gain the account back.
Monitoring feedback altogether is a great way of identifying problems very early on. It’s also a cost-effective way of solving problems. Here are a few quick suggestions how to keep positive feedback as high as possible:
- Respond quickly when you get negative feedback that you do not agree with, make sure to be polite though.
- If there’s an immediate issue with a transaction, let the buyer know straight away. This will prevent the buyer from leaving negative feedback in the first place. Equally, send a confirmation email to your buyer as soon as the item is dispatched, keeping your buyer up to date with any information is going to all go in your favour.
Listing your products at the correct price is something that Amazon takes very seriously. If your competitor’s prices are cheaper, and the items are of a better quality, Amazon will pick up on this and may deactivate the listing. They do this to avoid a negative customer experience (like I said, your customers are also Amazon’s customers). Sellers can help avoid blocked listings by setting the minimum and maximum allowed selling price for each product in their inventory.
Here’s how you can do this:
- Click Inventory> Manage Inventory.
- In the left-hand navigation, under Fix price alerts, select Potential pricing error.
- Update or confirm your listings, item by item by doing either of the following:
- Update your offer price, or
- Confirm your offers price by setting your minimum price and maximum price so that your offer price is within the minimum and maximum price range.
- Click Save and Finish to reactivate your listings.
Amazon will alert you if your price falls outside your price range. If you do not use the minimum and maximum price settings, their systems will continue to use internal data to help detect potential pricing errors.
There are many ways you can check what sellers with similar items to you are priced at, here are a few quick tips:
- A simple keyword search of the item you are selling on other sites such as eBay, Flubit or Amazon itself.
- Using software to compare prices of other items sold on Amazon. An example of this would be using your own Amazon account tool which you can access on your account, which compares prices on other sites to make sure your products are at the right price.
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, and every book is assigned a unique ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 when it's been published. ASIN stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number, which is a unique code Amazon uses to identify it, almost every product listed on Amazon has its own ASIN.
For books, the ASIN is the same as the ISBN number, but for all other products, a new ASIN is created when the item is uploaded to Amazon's catalogue. You'll find an item's ISBN or ASIN on the product detail page which includes further details about the item, which may include information such as size, number of pages etc.
It’s essential that every product has an ASIN and product page, and if you attempt to list the same item under multiple ASINs you will most likely get suspended.
If you have duplicate pages, you can merge them together by contacting Amazon:
- Go to your Amazon account.
- Go to Contact us.
- Select Products and Inventory > Product page issue.
- Under What kind of issue are you having?
- Select Merge or split product page.
- Select Merge and provide the requested information.
Amazon will then notify you if your request has been approved or not, after this all information about the products will remain the same, active and uninterrupted.
- Keep Up With Amazon’s Standards
Amazon has high standards for their sellers, which means it has strict performance targets that each seller has to meet.
- Order defect rate: less than 1%
- Pre-fulfilment cancel rate: less than 2.5%
- Late shipment rate: less than 4%
There are ways to measure your seller performance, alternatively, you can always wait for Amazon to review your performance for you, as they will send you notifications when you are slightly off target to warn you. But if you’d rather be ahead of the game:
- Use Customer Metrics
Amazon offers customer metrics for sellers to measure how they are performing, it's available in every seller’s accounts, it’s definitely worth using if you want to stay ahead of the game.
These are Amazon’s three customer metrics that ultimately measure seller performance:
Order defect rate (ODR): This is the percentage of your orders that have received a negative feedback, an A - to - Z guarantee claim. Amazon uses these conditions to measure overall performances:
- A seller who maintains a low percentage of negative reviews/feedback, including 1 and 2-star reviews will be considered unacceptable.
- A seller who works proactively with customers to resolve order problems will avoid most A - to - Z Guarantee claims. Amazon measures your claims rate using the percentage of all orders that involved a claim.
- When a buyer disputes a purchase charged to their credit card with their bank, it's referred to as a service chargeback.
Pre-fulfilment cancellation rate: This is the number of orders cancelled by a seller prior to shipment confirmation. This is then divided by the number of orders in the time period of interest. When working this out through computing metrics, Amazon will consider all order cancellations initiated by the seller.
Late shipment rate: This is the number of orders with shipments that are not confirmed by the expected ship date, which is then divided by the number of orders in the time period of interest. Orders that are shipped late may lead to increased customer complaints and negatively impact your customer's experience.
Joshua Price, an online marketplace expert, has a few tips on how to keep up to speed with your delivery rates:
“The thing to always remember is there are always going to be complaints - no matter how well you run your business - you’re never going to have 0% of your order defect rate. Let’s look at the shipping rate – so how long it takes for a product to reach the customer after they’ve ordered it. After you sell a product, Amazon gives you 48 hours to ship it, for example; if it sells on a Monday it has to be dispatched on a Wednesday. For most of the year not everyone will have a problem with this, especially if you have your products in the warehouse it’s absolutely fine. However, as the year goes on, the quantity of orders starts to increase, sometimes that turn-around is not as quick.
The way around this is by increasing your dispatch rate from 2 days to 4, and that gives you that little extra leeway and will make that process a little more comfortable. It also means if you ship out earlier than that Amazon are not going to penalise you for it, and the customer will be completely satisfied, and you beat your shipping rate. It also means your dispatch rate – which is the metric for the time in which it takes for you to dispatch an item – will not be affected”.
To increase your dispatch rate, simply log into your Amazon seller account, and click on My Amazon - Shipment Settings - then click on the tab Fulfilment Latency.
Keeping up to date with how your seller performance is, is the best way to ensure you don’t slip behind. Amazon’s standards of seller performance are only going to get tougher, so the more you check your seller performance, the less likely you are to get warnings or suspensions.
“It’s always difficult to keep up with Amazon’s suspension regulations and guidelines, without getting suspended or at least warned. One thing to note though is there are lots of things that can happen when you don’t meet your metrics”.
One final (very important) step would be to ensure you have a solid action plan in motion. Planning what your next step is, or having action steps for unexpected bumps will be the best practical way to ensure your account does not get suspended.
Chris McCabe - founder of eCommerceChris - explains his number one way to avoid account suspension on Amazon, and has a guideline action plan if you find yourself suspended.
"The number one thing you can do as a seller to reduce your risk of suspension is to respond properly to Amazon Performance Notifications. If you don’t respond when Amazon sends warnings and suspends listings then you increase the chances that a manual investigation results in your account being closed.
Examine the causes of the notifications. Take a long hard look at where you could potentially improve. Then, be sure you communicate your comprehensive solutions as effectively as you can. This goes straight into your Amazon account, make sure it represents you well.
Use our proven, 4 step system to create effective Plans of Action.
1. Figure out “What Went Wrong”. If there's a potential gap in your account operations, identify it concretely and be ready to describe it, in as much detail as you can. Look deep into your account and operations to find areas of improvement.
2. State your root causes. Don’t just restate the reason Amazon gave you. You need to tell them WHY it happened.
3. Lay out your plan of attack. How will you resolve the problems that led Amazon to review your account? Could they reasonably annotate your account indicating that you understand what failed, and moved immediately to fix what broke? Think in terms of due diligence you already have in place. Is there any room for improvement?
4. Putting it all together. Get your best writer and editor on the job. This is most likely going to Seller Performance or Product Quality teams, and they aren’t known for messing around. Put together a draft, then cast a sceptical eye on what you have in front of you. Have you stuck to the facts? Have you taken responsibility for the issue or issues? Have you stated your case clearly and concisely? Don’t send it off prematurely, and then regret it. Get it right the first time.
If Amazon thinks you only have short-term solutions to offer, then they likely will not take your email seriously. They don’t want to have to look at your account again for the same issues".
If you find that your selling privileges have been removed, getting in touch with people like Chris can help guide you through the steps that get you back on Amazon's site, it's certainly a good way of getting an expert's opinion.
Recently Amazon has made changes to its account suspension protocols, by asking online sellers to produce a pre-plan of action stating exactly what they were to do to avoid account suspension. Before, POA requests were only sent out of your Amazon account had been suspended.
You will most likely receive an email, as a warning by Amazon that it has reason to believe your account is at risk of suspension. If you receive an email from firstname.lastname@example.org it is advised that you do not ignore it.
To view more on this topic, click here.
Amazon is becoming stricter with their rules and regulations every year, and once suspended from the marketplace, it can be a challenge to reclaim. Even though there are certain things that are unavoidable, by following these steps and tips from marketplace experts, you'll be doing everything you can to keep your business flourishing on Amazon.
If you have any more tips on how to avoid account suspension, or are at risk of account suspension on Amazon, do get in touch or leave a comment below.
For more expert tips and guidance on how to increase sales on Amazon and grow your business on the marketplace, have a read of this.