If you’re currently facing an Amazon seller suspension, you’re probably all too familiar with this message:
“If we do not receive the requested information within 17 days, or after two unsuccessful appeals (whichever occurs sooner), your account will be permanently deactivated.
Failure to successfully appeal this decision may result in us permanently withholding any payments to you and any FBA inventory of the items that caused “inauthentic” complaints may be destroyed at your expense.”
Quite a foreboding message. Fail to convince Amazon that you deserve another chance, and you lose your account forever. Plus you lose any inventory in FBA! It’s tough to get a message like this without immediately panicking. But anxiety doesn’t help you think clearly either. A lot is on the line here: it’s the wrong time to “wing it” or start experimenting.
Most sellers send in 2 appeals well before the 17-day mark. They send a Plan of Action (POA) right away, hoping to get their account back ASAP. That leaves you with one last chance to push through an acceptable Plan of Action. Or you go from temporary to permanent deactivation.
This is all part of Amazon’s master plan to limit the number of replies they need to send. And justify their increasing tendency to ignore appeals. They need to offer viable appeals paths, but then, they don’t publish how their appeals review process works.
Accounts are getting “final worded” quicker and earlier in the appeals process than ever before.
It can feel like it takes them an eternity to respond to your appeal. While some sellers receive quick denials or generic requests for unspecified “greater details”. Many others are stuck waiting days or even weeks for an answer.
Why is that happening? Investigators are speeding through the email queues because Amazon measures them on that rapidity. It’s easier to send a denial or a request for more information than it is to examine an appeal. And in their haste to meet metrics, POAs can get lost in the cracks, or reviewed but not replied to.
Amazon claims to measure Seller Performance teams on quality, too, but do you see any real evidence of quality in the messaging sent back to sellers? If you’re suspended and you call Account Health Services, trying to clarify why you received a particular message, do you receive quality answers on that call? Clearly, there’s a huge disconnect between Seller Performance, Account Health Services, and the managers in charge of delegating escalations of stuck appeals to seasoned investigators.
What’s the point of offering outward facing teams that cannot tell you anything you can use to revise an appeal or Plan of Action?
When I was in Seller Performance, account investigation teams were not managed this way. They never wanted to commit to a hard count of appeal chances. Seller Performance and policy teams chose to address each Amazon seller suspension on a case by case basis. Each account got assessed on its own merit.
This was to prevent investigators from handling every Amazon seller suspension appeal the same exact way, like robots. Seller Performance designated key factors to be considered during the review of the seller’s Plan of Action. Managers encouraged investigators to take a holistic view of ALL data before arriving at their decision. Reviewing account history and the strength and credibility of the POA were only a few of the criteria used.
Amazon’s teams are now behaving more like robots. They’re selecting vague, pre-written messaging from drop-down menus in their tools. Much of Amazon’s old internal auditing processes vaporized in recent years, in place of quick, but poorly executed, account reviews. Who is paying the biggest price? Amazon sellers, of course.
Your reinstatement strategy needs to reflect an awareness and understanding of this reality. At least until Seller Performance and the appeals process improves.
Some sellers take a lot longer to get back on than they should. Why does it take so many sellers weeks or months to get reinstated from an Amazon seller suspension? We see some cases where they have appealed too hastily with poorly prepared content. They find themselves trying again and again while (hopefully) improving their POAs as they go. Further delays happen when AHS gives alternate and conflicting views of why a POA hasn’t been accepted.
Why do sellers keep getting sent the same email for “greater details” over and over with no explanation why? Reps often cannot or will not say; it’s a big secret. All of this takes time, sometimes a lot of time, to play out. Meanwhile, you’re not selling, and you lose traction.
Sellers who receive the same canned messaging repeatedly asking for the same things that have already been provided or generic, basic denials with no usable information often don’t know how to respond. You can’t keep sending in the same thing hoping for one positive result if you submit it enough times. You’ll get “final worded” and ignored. This all lengthens the suspension time frame and makes it all the tougher to get reinstated. You may even make it a lot harder for us to step in and help you out.
Account Health Services often avoid this question when sellers are waiting for a response. We continue to see sellers waiting for responses and not escalating their requests for updates properly. “How long can you wait?” becomes a frequent question I ask sellers who contact us looking for account reinstatement help.
Calls to AHS often indicate that the appeal has not been read at all, even though the seller has already received a response. Sellers see a denial, with no info, or a generic request for more info on another matter, unrelated to their account reinstatement. For example, we’ve seen sellers receive emails about particular ASINs getting reinstated, with no reference to the fact that the account is still down. How can they say your ASINs are back up when you can’t list or sell anything? None of it makes any sense because no one is regulating investigation quality.
Amazon made changes in 2019 and continues to make changes to their own internal disbursement methodology. Recent messages to some active sellers have even changed settlement schedules due to newly implemented performance reviews. In many more situations than before, it looks like Amazon is going to make you demand funds.
Suspended sellers may need to pass through an additional payments appeal process, on top of their account appeal. They are generally given 7 days to provide relevant info.
Given the numerous cases we’ve seen from sellers reporting the lack of receipt of final payment after 90 days, we advise any seller who is struggling with this to focus on full account reinstatement, even if they don’t plan to sell again. Otherwise, payments teams may ignore pleas for final funds.
We’re seeing an increasing number of situations where funds are held longer, or forever, by Amazon. Can’t show invoices that prove you source authentic products from reliable suppliers? You may be looking at the inability to prove genuine products behind those listings you put up, offering those particular brands for sale. In these cases, Amazon treats you as guilty until proven innocent. They’ll keep the funds unless you prove legitimate sourcing, with verifiable supplier websites. Oh, and make sure if Amazon calls your suppliers, they answer their phone and verify all the details of each relevant invoice. Otherwise, they’re not considered verified.
No longer are permanent fund holds limited to those committing fraud, selling counterfeits, or committing bad faith policy abuses. In the past several months, we’ve observed sellers accused of deceptive practices like fake reviews writing Payments team escalations or even arbitration cases, because they cannot get their final disbursement. Clearly, leaving fake negative reviews for a competitor or bolstering your own product reviews with fake positives now falls under “code of conduct” violations for a very good reason — it justifies Amazon’s interest in keeping the cash instead of sending it out to the seller once their 90 days of waiting are up.
Keep an eye on how Amazon handles seller account suspensions, funds holds, and account reviews. Don’t give them opportunities to take action on your account or limit your ability to function as a business. If you do find yourself stuck in the appeals process, decide who can help you get out of it properly, and if possible, quickly. Amazon is changing with each passing month, and not always in the interests of all parties. You’ll need to stay on top of their moves and adapt accordingly.