You know what’s better than getting your listing or account reinstated? Not getting suspended in the first place!
We see so many sellers investing time and money into advertising, listing optimization, and review collection, without really allocating any resources to account protection. And I grasp that it’s difficult to consider “compliance” a profit center, but I think that thinking is flawed, because:
- Improving your processes and creating back up plans will absolutely help profitability, and
- All the work you’re doing driving your profits on Amazon come to an abrupt stop if you’re suspended
And, as someone who works on Amazon suspensions all day every day, I have some good news for you- most suspensions are preventable.
Here are 10 things you can do right now to protect your Amazon account and ASINs.
1. Keep your metrics well within range.
Amazon needs to know you can manage your operations efficiently enough to ship items on time, process orders without issue, and maintain positive feedback. They have little to no tolerance for orders canceled due to lack of inventory, shipping late, or failing to get products delivered within a reasonable timeframe. Amazon may be lenient for small amounts of time on certain metrics, but you can’t count on it or risk negative consequences.
of the sellers who come to us with metrics-based suspensions lacked a back up plan prior to the disaster. Have a plan B for any issues that could come up, and I do mean ANY issues.
What will you do if you have a system outage, if key staff members are unavailable, in case of inclement weather, if your warehouse has a fire? Make sure you also check manually any automated tools consistently for potentially damaging bugs.
2. Resolve any rights owner issues or IP complaints, & protect your own IP!
Whether you’re selling your own Private Label, licensed products, or reselling other brands, you need to run a tight ship in regards to intellectual property rights ownership. That means your own, and everyone else’s, too. Make sure you resolve any new trademark, patent or copyright infringement claims as they come in. Ignoring those could create ugly hits to your Account Health and regrets that you failed to act sooner.
If you’re reselling other brands, make sure you’re not vulnerable to IP claims that accumulate quickly without resolution. Infringements could take your entire account down if ignored. If you need expert-level legal help to resolve an IP complaint, not knowing where to find that can mean the difference between fixing it or facing a long suspension. Don’t hire just ANY attorney, especially if that person fails to grasp how Amazon Notice teams view appeals. And don’t hire a lawyer lacking an IP-expert background. Know how to locate good help, or ask someone like me who knows which attorneys won’t fake competence.
Private label brands must register their trademark with the USPTO and enroll in Brand Registry to protect themselves. Is your product patentable? Great, get a patent. We also recommend copyrighting your listing and website content so an unscrupulous competitor doesn’t try to copyright your own content out from under you. This gives you a stronger basis to report anyone who steals your images or written text.
Licensed products need to have a licensing agreement that can be provided to Amazon upon their request. They’re much more likely to ask now, than before.
Make sure you check out The Complete Guide to Amazon Seller Documentation- What You Need to Protect Your Business
3. Counter performance notifications with acceptable appeal content
Waiting 6 months for potential threats to fall off the Account Health dashboard doesn’t work anymore. That’s way, way too long in “Amazon time.” You need to evaluate and respond, the right way, or your account health rating will suffer.
If you’re “winging it” when you appeal or you are copying and pasting content from older appeals (whether it’s your own past appeals, or someone else’s) then don’t expect Amazon performance and policy teams to take you seriously.
I’ve had some of my own appeals (which were written for someone else) get modified or reworded by a different seller who later said it didn’t work. Of course, if an appeal is written by someone else, for someone else, with specific information about something else, it’s not likely to fly right through.
Remember that you’re not filling in blanks with basic info. In most cases, you need a Plan of Action that will convince Amazon to reinstate you. They’re looking for specific, credible statements with the details about how you’ve implemented the solutions. Nothing less.
4. Respond to Product Quality-Related Notifications
Warned about the quality of an item you sold that generated too many returns? Receiving buyer complaints about product defects, functionality, or accuracy of your detail page info? Take action to review internally all of your processes around the sourcing, inspection and listing content of your products to ensure you demonstrate the capability of operational improvement.
Out of stock, and not planning to list or sell the item again? Make sure the listing is deleted from your catalog, locate and remove any remaining inventory (if there’s any left in FBA). Solidify in Amazon’s mind that you’ve taken the reported problem seriously enough to determine the nature of the shortcoming while offering your already-executed Plan of Action.
What will this show them? That you’re a hands-on seller willing to remove inventory or delist products, even if it means a few lost sales, to protect the buyer experience on the site. You’re regularly checking return reasons, looking over buyer messages about their dissatisfaction with orders, and taking steps to prevent similar problems on future orders. You’re participating in the marketplace by truly managing your account, not acting as a bystander would. Don’t look like you list, sell and repeat without monitoring sales or that you put profits ahead of real due diligence.
How do you express improvements within the confines of a written appeal? You find the best writer at your company, someone who is well-versed in the art of communication of ideas. Put that person front and center in charge of notification replies. This may not necessarily be the company owner or the manager of your account. This needs to be part of your standard operating procedures.
Make sure that all extraneous, unrelated information is nowhere to be found. Remove comments about metrics, plans to expand your Amazon presence, or how much you’d like it if seller performance called you to explain their process.
ASIN-level appeals should be detailed but concise, and cover the specific item quality matters at hand. Are you changing suppliers and sourcing somewhere else? Show them verifiable info on that supplier, and tell them why the change eliminates the problem. Are you aware of safety incidents around a particular product, and have temporarily delisted it in order to pull back products from FBA to inspect them? Tell them this, in detail, and make it look and sound like a comprehensive Plan of Action. They’ll hold you to what you say you’re doing, so it’s not just for show. This is the real deal — make sure you do it effectively.
Make sure you read How to write a Plan of Action
5. Stay Informed!
Don’t live in a small Amazon bubble of your own making, when there are mountains of resources out in the world to guide you, and in fact warn you, of incoming threats.
Not so savvy on social media? Just like having your best writer draft your correspondence to Seller Performance or Product Quality, make sure someone in your Amazon account management circle pays attention to policy warnings that other sellers receive, instead of disregarding any actions that don’t happen to you.
What happens to someone else in your category today could happen to you tomorrow, so stay active in Facebook groups or email newsletters containing updated info on what teams like Seller Performance are doing.
I understand that Amazon often appears to operate with impunity and turns on a dime, but that is NOT always the case. Frequently, sellers contacting me indicate that they had no idea a certain problem would lead to their account suspension., Upon our review, we see warning signs were given weeks in advance.
6. Pull any problematic products
For the ever-common “inauthentic” warnings, don’t blame buyers or competitors and assume it will all go away with a simple message to Amazon, with an invoice attached.
Don’t cling to selling something that attracts the ire of your customers on a regular basis if it’s leading to listing removals, warnings, and further scrutiny of your Amazon account. When in doubt, throw it out! You can hardly risk having one troubled item pull your entire account down.
If it’s your top-selling listing and you have way too much of it to turn back now, make sure you figure out fast the reasons why people keep complaining about it.
What you learn today from a negative buyer experience could prevent the permanent suspension of that listing tomorrow! Make a solid risk assessment and value judgment before deciding what your next best steps are.
Proactive, two-way communication with Amazon is THE most important thing you can do to protect your account. Look at the information they and their customers are giving you in your account and act accordingly.
7. Make sure you have the supply chain documentation Amazon is looking for
Think ahead and plan for Amazon to grill you about your suppliers and documentation details BEFORE it happens. Plan for the worst, just in case you face an account suspension due to a lack of acceptable documentation. As an Amazon seller, you never know when brands or buyers will report you for counterfeit, rights ownership violations, or inauthentic item complaints. Prepare now to defend yourself.
Are your suppliers verifiable?
If your supplier lacks a web site or an online presence, in this day and age, does it make sense to continue that sourcing relationship? Can they prove their relationships to the brands they sell?
The same principle applies if you’re selling aging inventory that lacks invoices or if invoice dates go back beyond 365 days. That inventory no longer has any value on Amazon if they ask you for invoices. The only way out of that predicament, if they suspend you for inauthentic item complaints, is to tell them you’ll only source and sell newer product. Pull out of FBA anything approaching a year, or you’ll be risking everything.
If you have invoices that are hard to read, that lack specific SKUs or product titles, or if your invoices are not translated, then you increase the odds of rejection. If the addresses or company names on your invoices don’t match what you have registered in Seller Central, they won’t take it.
8. Stay Vigilant About Quality Control Testing
There’s nothing more important to Amazon than making customers happy, so keep this in mind every time you make a business decision related to your Amazon account. You must meet or exceed a customer’s expectations for quality.
Don’t wait for negative product reviews to roll in to find out that there is something amiss. Inspect and test your products, inspect the packaging and make sure it’s exactly what your listings describe. Will it meet or exceed customer expectations?
Conduct ongoing safety testing
You may have finished developing your product and you couldn’t be happier with the supplier, but you don’t want that sinking feeling that occurs when a buyer discovers something wrong with your product before you do.
When manufacturers get comfortable, sometimes they start to cut corners. Maybe they had to substitute the fabric you normally use for something cheaper because they ran out during a busy holiday season. Or, maybe they’ve earned your trust and are hoping you won’t notice they’ve started using lower quality materials. Whatever the case, when you ignore the quality control process, these things can happen. You have to keep vigilant eyes on your supply chain at all times.
9. Be careful who you give account access to, and make sure you document the relationship
We still see too many sellers giving out primary email access or primary login information. Only the owner of the account should ever have access to this, and the primary email used should only be used for this purpose, and not publicly used. This will vastly reduce the chance of an account compromise.
Any user you grant access to your account creates a “relation” in Amazon’s system. The last thing you want is an account suspension or denied access to Brand Registry because Amazon has connected you to a suspended account or to someone believed to have engaged in abusive conduct.
That’s why it’s crucial that you maintain documentation of your relationships and any terminations of those relationships with individuals who have access to your Seller Central account.
By providing evidence of the scope of your relationship and/or that you have ended the relationship, you can increase the chances of having your account reinstated or your Brand Registry approved. Keep dated contracts and termination letters on file for all employees and service providers, outlining the extent of their involvement with your account. This includes third-party logistics providers, warehouses, software providers, and contractors.
When terminating a relationship, it is important to also revoke the individual’s access to your Seller Central and Brand Registry accounts as part of your off-boarding process.
Additionally, if there is a change in the ownership of your company, such as a change in business partners or a sale of the company, it is important to have clear documentation, including the date of the change, and ensure that your account information is updated accordingly, including removing any old users.
10. Don’t give them an easy reason to suspend you by making poor choices.
Keep in mind that your choice between fulfilling batches of orders at a loss versus canceling the orders and hoping for the best isn’t really a choice. A spike in canceled orders will trigger at minimum an investigator review and likely an automated suspension, depending on the severity.
Amazon reacts poorly to stories that cite unresolved warehousing issues, bad product inspection by your suppliers, or anything else that leads to late shipments and an overall bad buyer experience. For example, imagine if you cancel a string of orders due to a low-price product error or technical glitch in your fulfillment software. You’ve let your buyers down, and Amazon hates that. Metrics exist to be met, and excuses just undermine their confidence in you.
Keep that account healthy! Appeal policy warnings or ASIN-level actions promptly, but also with relevant details citing specific, proactive measures.