We continue to see more Amazon account suspensions for Price Gouging/ Fair Price Policy violations. Along with them, we’ve seen large samples of POAs from sellers trying to get reinstated. Some see immediate rejections for non-viable Plans. Others are immediately asked for “greater details.” Some sellers don’t hear back at all and don’t know why. Appeals get ignored, or Amazon cites an increasing backlog which tells us that Seller Performance investigators will be more pressed to review appeals too quickly.
Overall, we’re seeing sellers panicking and sending in poorly written or incomplete appeals that have almost no chance of success. As an Amazon seller trying to rectify your mistakes as soon as possible, you’ll want to limit your suspension to days, not weeks. Otherwise, you’ll remain stuck for longer than you would during normal marketplace operations.
Are You Suspended, Or Have They Just Warned You?
After reviewing cases of sellers who came to us looking for help, most sellers fall into one of three groups:
1. Seller Account Suspended
No warning. No notification from Account Health Services. No request to submit a POA within 72 hours to maintain active status. Sellers who received a suspension were considered an immediate risk. They had to be stopped right away to protect Amazon’s buyers, per the Amazon policy teams.
2. Given 72 Hours To Submit A Plan of Action
Asked for a pre-POA showing they understood what rules they had violated, and proving they had a plan in place to ensure there would be no future violations of the Fair Pricing Policy. Account Health Services spoke with these sellers about observance of price gouging laws. If the reps actually understood the material, they went over how to monitor prices, either manually or with automation, to make sure no rules are broken. In some cases, sellers benefited from the advice, and in others, they didn’t. Even after following it more or less to the letter.
3. ASIN Level Policy Warnings and Blocked Listings
Most sellers are savvy enough to know that a warning now could lead to a later review and possible suspension of the whole account. They’ve heard the horror stories in Facebook groups or seller forums.
Recommended Reading: Corona Virus Update: What Amazon Sellers Need to Know About Price Gouging
Make sure you counter those notifications, even if there’s no ask for a POA. You can easily email Seller Performance with a bulleted list showing you reviewed all listings for “Essential items” or “household staples” and describe the preventative actions you took. Explain what you have done, with specifics, to make sure future listings aren’t flagged. Remember Amazon always threatens to suspend an account in the future if you’re unable to limit policy violations.
You need an expert to help you handle your Amazon account reinstatement.
We used to work on Amazon’s Policy and Performance Team, so we know exactly what they’re looking for.
Suspended For Price Gouging, With No Response From Seller Performance?
First of all, why are they delayed? The backlog. You’ll hear a lot about how backed up the queues are, given the coronavirus situation. Amazon wants to keep violators of the Fair Pricing Policy in the penalty box for at least a little while. They need to teach the lesson and reduce the number of offenders next time, right?
OK, but how long is that? We’ve heard from sellers who haven’t heard back after their first appeal went in 9 days ago. Can you wait weeks just to get a response? Can your business survive to wait a long time for a response, then only to receive an appeal denial?
Amazon is pretty disorganized right now. Some sellers got a notification saying they’re reinstated, only to find out that their listings still aren’t live. What is going on? In our calls to AHS and research with Amazon teams, we’ve discovered the “secondary reviews” process. This means the reinstatement must be approved by managers before the account can go live again. Some of these secondary ones get stuck if they are transferred, or assigned to another investigator or Seller Performance manager who is overloaded with other tasks. That can mean many more days, or weeks, of a “reinstated” account that can’t sell. You’ll need to find ways of nudging those along. And if all else fails, escalating it just to get an answer.
Seller Performance Denied Your Appeal- How Well Did You Address The Alleged Price Gouging in Your POA?
Did you only make initial promises to delete listings, dump repricers or delist certain items until the crisis passes? That is only a small part of the problem. Amazon needs to know you can do more than stop what you’re doing, once your hand is slapped. They need to hear details about what structure you now have in place to monitor and prevent future violations. Otherwise, they believe that you’re likely to re-offend, and you’ll make them look badly (again).
Sellers often don’t address their failure to observe state and local laws. In fact, the legal piece to the appeal looks to be entirely absent in several of the POAs we’ve seen. You need to demonstrate that you’re aware of laws in your state, where your business operates. You should be familiar with price gouging laws in all 50 states, as that’s where you’re selling. If you don’t even know the percentage of price increases your state allows and you exceeded that limit on Amazon listings, chances are your state Attorney General will want to know that, too. I can pass along my best references to anyone who needs legal advice and sells on Amazon. Hint: it’s not the loudest ones who constantly promote their Amazon expertise.
What To Do If Seller Performance Is Taking Too Long To Reply?
- Request a response, nicely. First, send an update request to the main seller performance queues, with your POA attached. Gently nudge them for an answer due to several days of silence on their end.
- If that fails to generate a response, get louder and push for a response more insistently. Demand that Amazon teams follow the processes they set out for you when they allowed for an appeal. There’s no point for Amazon to solicit appeals when there’s no one around to take the time to read it, once you’ve put it together for them. Ask for a Seller Performance team manager, and submit to multiple other email queues as needed.
- Get Loud, and Angry. Why are they offering third-party sellers to appeal, then ignoring them? If it’s a permanent ban from the get-go, then why not say so? In most cases, it’s NOT a permanent ban from the beginning. They’re only making it a de facto ban by leaving high quantities of reinstatement appeals in their queues to sit and rot, until they can devote enough resources to reviewing them. Or, they speed through them with generic, canned replies for “greater details.” But make sure you get some answer, anything, to use as the basis for a future escalation. Amazon needs to devote way more resources to these teams but often doesn’t.
Don’t Ask AHS For Advice On Price Gouging Appeals. They Don’t Appear To Have Been Trained On The Topic.
We’ve already noted major inconsistencies in past articles about Account Health Services reps. They have a wide variety of skill levels, experience, and knowledge around how Seller Performance teams work. In terms of price gouging suspension cases, AHS reps have little experience.
Some may have handled a few related cases last year during Hurricane Dorian, but the rest don’t seem to have been trained on what Seller Performance teams look for in a solid POA (which is altogether too often the case in ANY suspension type, nowadays).
As always, take what they say with a big grain of salt, and don’t be surprised if following their advice leads to another denial or request for “greater details.” If you call them back and present them with the negative response after you did everything they told you to do, they’ll retreat to insisting it’s your account, your business, and your responsibility to compose a good POA. Bad form, across the board.
Remember – Suspensions for Price Gouging Protects Buyers and Observes State Laws.
Amazon must appear as though they’re policing their marketplace in case anyone complains, even if they’re only partially doing so. In the eyes of skeptical consumers, media, and to state and federal governments, Amazon has to take responsibility for regulating bad behavior by sellers. They’re willing to lose whatever commissions they’d make off your price gouged sales if it means less grief from the public about profiteering. They care about their reputation a lot more than your ability to sell hand sanitizer at inflated prices. They’d rather be rid of those sellers and make a big show of it. Don’t put yourself in that group.
Amazon is expanding, not reducing, the number of ASINs getting flagged. Their willingness to suspend sellers looks good against any complaints from outside parties that don’t like Amazon’s tendency to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Don’t give them that chance to draw a line through your name, for short OR long term periods of suspension. And appeal responsibly!