1. Why is Amazon so heavy-handed when enforcing inauthentic complaints?
Buyers and brands continue to submit reports of items that are not the quality that was expected, “not as described” and outright counterfeit. Amazon knows it’s on the hot seat for counterfeit prevention, facing additional public scrutiny at every turn.
They’re investing lots of time, energy and resources trying to figure out who sells counterfeits and who doesn’t (without having to open every box sent in to FBA to check). Amazon is contacted consistently by buyers, media, and even sometimes government agencies who identify illegitimate and unsafe products. Part of the problem occurs when sellers are allowed to sell low quality items that hurt buyer experience or even hurt the buyers themselves. This prompts Amazon to act aggressively to remove those items, and the sellers who sold them, until they deem their products genuine. As we’ve seen in our work reinstating suspended sellers, Amazon often struggles to separate actual inauthentic items from baseless complaints by unknowing buyers, or even competitors.
2. Are private label brands sent “inauthentic item” warnings, and ASIN suspensions?
Yes, constantly. No one is immune to the accusation of “inauthentic.” Buyer complaints about ANY difference they’ve identified between the product they have and a seller’s detail page could result in “inauthentic” flags. Amazon is clearly using their own definition for the what “inauthentic” means and enforcement follows along those lines. Over the years, we’ve seen buyer complaints of “not as advertised” or “not as described” or “not the quality expected” result in inauthentic warnings and listing or account suspensions. There need not be usage of the terms “fake” or “Counterfeit” or “Copy” or anything similar, it turns out. They could classify anything reported not to 100% exactly match the listing as inauthentic. That means anyone, private labelers or resellers, may be forced to appeal inauthentic item suspensions for reinstatement.
3. What are the possible repercussions of ignoring inauthentic item complaints?
Sellers find themselves suspended on a regular basis for consistent inauthentic reports, often despite the percentage of returns or actual complaints received against those ASINs. While sellers may handle one or two individual complaints by removing FBA inventory and deleting listings, most sellers now understand that the mark against their selling record doesn’t go anywhere. To the contrary, they usually hang around and continue to pose a threat.
Account Health dashboard notifications won’t fall off for 6 months and as we all know, any number of things can happen in that time. For one thing, it’s likely you’ll receive more inauthentic complaints that will lead to a full-fledged review of the account during that time. More often than not, that means a “72 hour” notice asking for a viable Plan Of Action to keep your selling status active.
If your POA doesn’t manage to persuade Seller Performance that you’ve taken sufficient steps to ensure items are authentic, you’re suspended from selling. Only a strong and detailed plan will resurrect your business and get you reinstated. If you send multiple weak Plans of Action, then each subsequent appeal lowers your odds of a proper review by Seller Performance investigators. If anything, they’re more likely to skip past it and deny it, while echoing the annotations in past denials, simply because it’s easier and quicker.
4. Are sellers often suspended for inauthentic item complaints?
You’ve probably seen many sellers posting publicly about inauthentic suspensions, asking for public help. Many of them don’t appear to know where Amazon got the idea they had inauthentic products in the first place. Most also don’t understand how internal teams process the complaints that lead to investigations and account suspensions. Unfortunately, sellers who fail to grasp what investigators look for in patterns of buyer or brand complaints also usually don’t know what’s expected from Seller Performance when it’s time to write a Plan of Action. Using generic templates or slapping a quick appeal together greatly reduces your odds of reinstatement, and increases the odds of a long or unfixable ordeal.
If you have 72 hours to put a good POA together, asking Account Health Services for their take could hurt more than it helps. The rep may be unfamiliar with Seller Performance investigation methodology, so are they the best source of quality advice? They often claim ignorance when you ask them specific process-related questions. Some reps say it’s proprietary and they can’t disclose it, and others admit they’re completely unfamiliar with how it all works. Either way, you’re likely to be speaking with someone amateur-level who coaches you on a proper POA without knowing if it’s going to work. They guarantee no results, and for a good reason.
5. What are they looking for, to accept your invoices and supplier details?
Amazon needs to see acceptable, unaltered supply chain documentation. You need to make sure you have verifiable supplier info to give to Amazon to pass a review. All supplier details that you provide must meet their verification criteria. Invoices lack an invoice number? Quantity isn’t visible, or the SKU and item description aren’t there? Take the invoice back to the supplier and make sure they give you an updated, completed invoice for your purchase, before you’ve sent it into Amazon. Otherwise, you’re risking an invoice rejection. If your account is already suspended, that could negate your appeal. Appeal denial may occur no matter how good your POA is under these circumstances. And if you’re actively selling and are asked to provide invoices and supplier information but they can’t find what they need, your account could be suspended fully as soon as they reject inadequate documentation.
6. What does Amazon expect to see in order to confirm your supplier is legitimate?
Whether you’re selling your own brand or you’re selling other brands on Amazon, you need to make sure your supplier or manufacturer has a website that can be independently verified. While Amazon includes a step in their standard operating procedures to call suppliers to confirm invoice information, they appear to skip this step sometimes. They need to be able to figure out who you’re sourcing from, using a simple online search. If anything you’ve told them about the supplier cannot be quickly confirmed, they’ll annotate the account that your supplier can’t be verified. That alone could be enough to reject a POA and deny reinstatement, so make sure all information is complete, accurate and consistent.
Give Amazon a good phone number to reach a specific contact at your supplier’s company. While investigators often skip this step, you still need to give them the option to call someone to confirm your business relationship, and the items you bought. Don’t pass them an 800 number or any phone contact info where they’re likely to hit a wall and fail to reach someone who can confirm your invoice details. They may simply tick a box saying “supplier unverifiable” and move on, leaving another strike against you. Prepare suppliers for this call — it could be the difference between a reinstated account and a rejected appeal.
7. What do you do if you don’t have a supplier, or you don’t have invoices?
There’s nothing you can do to change past bad sourcing decisions, but you can rule out dropshipping right now and locate wholesalers or authorized distributors to source from going forward. Telling Amazon you’re not going to sell those particular ASINs again and saying “we don’t have invoices, we’re just dropshipping” won’t fly. They’re not interested in hearing excuses for poor sourcing previous to your suspension, they want to know what the plan is going forward. Do you have one?
For instance, if you’re dropshipping-only and you failed to understand the trends of Amazon policy enforcement, you’ll know that lacking invoices means you don’t have an Amazon business, period. If you don’t have invoices for it, you can’t list or sell it. Telling Amazon that you have no orders for the ASINs they’ve flagged, either in prior listing suspensions or at the point of an account suspension, won’t do you any good. Your only viable plan is ditching dropshipping and starting over with wholesalers and authorized distributors. Make them believe it because you already have invoices and supplier info to prove it.
8. What kind of Plan of Action are they expecting from you, to reinstate your privileges?
A good one, with details and specifics in each of the three categories or sections. Are you writing up complaint causes, or actual Root Causes? Amazon understands why they suspended you, so don’t waste time or space telling them the same things they already know. If they think you don’t have the ability to identify the deficiencies that led to buyers or brand complaints about authenticity, you’re handing them a great reason to skip over the rest of the POA. Don’t give them that excuse.
The second section is the most straightforward — what did you do to take immediate action to resolve past inauthentic complaints? Did you pull inventory out of FBA to reexamine the items for defects, for example? If so, what are the removal order numbers? Were listings deleted, and if so, how did you identify which products shouldn’t be listed or sold anymore? Maybe you had a problem supplier, and if so, did you terminate the business relationship? They want to see significant changes, not window dressing.
Finally, Amazon seeks credible upgrades and methods you’ve executed to prevent future inauthentic complaints. Do you present details on Quality Control improvements? Are you training staff differently, and will it be better? If you’re replacing suppliers, what does your improved supplier vetting process look like ? Are you test-buying from them, before you start listing the inventory for sale on Amazon? They need all this and more. Show them some substantive changes to your operations, not copy and paste styled generic template info.
9. How many cracks at an appeal do you get, how many suppliers or invoices will they go over?
Not that many, anymore, due to Amazon’s current trend of ignoring additional plans that are sent in. We recommend that sellers who try and fail with a first POA seek professional help for all subsequent appeals.
10. What if you can’t get reinstated, will you get your money in the end?
Sellers often contact us after they’ve failed to get reinstated and waited 90 days, expecting their payments to show up. Instead, they find themselves pushed through yet another appeals process just to try to get their money back.
If Amazon believes they can justify holding your funds permanently in arbitration, they’ll often do just that. They know you cannot sue them for relief. And they can show an arbitrator that you’ve agreed to their TOS, granting them broad powers over your selling privileges, funds, and inventory. They have a high batting average in arbitration and use that as part of their overall decision making process.
Tens to hundreds of millions must be sitting in their coffers due to this approach. That’s a big incentive to keep going until they can’t justify it any longer. Numerous sellers who lack proof that will satisfy Amazon’s conditions for proving authenticity will be stuck without final funds or additional sales. The only way to avoid this predicament is to get your account reinstated.