Recent advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and data-modeling have led directly to many noteworthy benefits for both ecommerce sellers and consumers.
However, there are a few specific areas in which these pragmatic innovations have created significant headaches for many entrepreneurs. One of these areas is responsible for the increase in Amazon product safety warnings and inauthentic complaints that are endemic these days.
Amazon A.I. Is Getting In The Way of Good Customer Service
With over two billion monthly visits to its US site alone, even a company the size of Amazon doesn’t have the ability to keep track of the numerous daily issues that inevitably arise on the largest ecommerce platform in the world. Amazon instead relies on artificial intelligence, data modeling and keyword filters to help identify troublesome customer interactions. While A.I. makes it easier for Amazon to identify account issues at scale, unfortunately it also leads to a lot of “false positives” that result in blanket, automated warnings. These often don’t apply to your specific product or situation. While it’s pretty easy to trigger the system to flag you,; it’s not-so-easy to make an appeal and get an account or listing reinstated. This is the problem our clients often face, and if there were simple straightforward solutions, they wouldn’t need us to strategize appeals for them.
Since Amazon sellers receive negative feedback, negative product reviews, or returns after buyer use of complaint keywords such as “fake” or “inauthentic” they often become victims of “knee-jerk” suspensions with no real context. Those who are given almost no information from Amazon have little means of recourse in correcting the problem.
When It Comes to Product Safety, Amazon Means Business
While A.I. is utilized to monitor virtually all aspects of seller accounts, the company places a great deal of emphasis on identifying listings that sell potentially-hazardous products.
Thus far, Amazon has invested more than $700 million to protect their marketplace and customers, with a significant amount of that funding going toward safety and compliance regulations. On its surface, this seems like an obvious thing to do. After all, what company doesn’t want to ensure the safety of its buyers and give them the confidence required to come back to buy again and again? The problem lies in how these safety measures impact a seller’s listing with regards to hypersensitive or erroneous flagging.
Amazon holds their sellers to an incredibly high standard, particularly when it comes to the sales of products which could impact the health and welfare of their customers. This is so vital to Amazon’s reputation that the first thing an Amazon seller sees on the Product Safety Warning Page is the below long list of related articles addressing specific Amazon product types:
(Feel free to open any of the links below, but the REAL purpose of this list is to provide a visual on just how serious Amazon regards safety).
- Infant bedside sleepers
- Toddler beds
- Full-size cribs
- Non-full-size cribs
- Bassinets and Cradles
- Children’s gates and enclosures
- High chairs
- Infant bouncer seats
- Stationary activity centers
- Infant swings
- Children’s bicycle, ski, and snowboard helmets
- Bicycle, ski, and snowboard helmets
- Amazon Device Accessories
- Amber teething jewelry
- Infant and toddler feeding products
- Infant bath seats
- Infant bath tubs
- Carriages and strollers
- Baby changing products
- Fall-protection harnesses
- Personal lubricants
- Mountaineering carabiners
- Amazon’s Policy on Selling Child Restraint Systems in the United States
- Infant walkers
- Children’s Jewelry
- Children’s Products
- Children’s School Supplies
- Children’s clothing with drawstrings
- Eclipse glasses and filters for solar viewing
- Fidget spinners
- Fire & Smoke Masks
- Fire and other safety products
- Infant sleep positioners, pillows, and cushions
- Invisible Ink Pens
- Magnetic building tiles
- Mobile Phone / Laptop Computer Batteries and Chargers
- Paint Removal Products
- Personal flotation devices (PFDs)
- Power Banks
- Portable Automotive Jump Starters
- Selling portable generators, portable inverter generators, and related devices in the US
- Selling Toys in the US
- Squishy Toys
- Seasonal and Decorative Lighting Products
- Product Assurance – Selling Children’s Toys in the US
- Children’s sleepwear
- Booster seats
- Children’s folding and non-folding chairs and stools
- Frame child carriers
- Play yards
- Portable bed rails
- Portable hook-on chairs
- Sling Carriers
- Soft infant and toddler carriers
- Space heaters
- Product compliance documentation
- Emergency contraceptives
- Male and female condoms
- Skin lightening and whitening products
- Medical gloves
- Ingestible over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers
- Menstrual devices
- Medical thermometers
- Hand-supported hair dryers
- Infant and toddler bibs
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulated products
- Children’s Product Certificate (CPC)
- Electric bicycles (e-bikes)
- Children’s bicycles
- Electronic mobility (e-mobility) devices
- Pacifiers and pacifier clips
- Climbing ropes
- Mountaineering helmets
- Climbing harnesses
- Equestrian helmets
Amazon states: “[We] expect and require selling partners to offer safe products. Amazon sellers are responsible for ensuring that your products are safe and in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, standards, and practices. To ensure product safety, Amazon sellers must have all applicable safety and compliance documentation for the products that they list.”
Amazon could spontaneously review certification and test reports for your products at any given time. If your documentation is not up to date, your listing is at risk of getting shut down in an audit. Unfortunately, this is where many sellers get into hot water, because they think compliance is a “one and done” process and they fail to stay updated on safety enforcement trends.
How Do I Reinstate A Suppressed ASIN?
If you are unfortunate enough to have your ASIN suppressed due to a potential safety hazard, you receive a notification from Amazon with a description of the issue and what steps you need to take in order to appeal. The reasoning behind your suspension may be vague, because it’s likely been picked up by A.I. sending an auto-response. You may simply see general language indicating Amazon is reviewing the listing for accuracy or due to buyer complaints. Whether Amazon’s review process has any substantial basis or not, you’ll have to make an appeal to reinstate your listing.
Here’s what to expect:
To reinstate your ASIN or remove your products, read the notification carefully and respond promptly if a response is requested.
If Amazon does not receive a response from you within seven days of their initial outreach, they will close the case, and your ASIN will remain suppressed. Amazon says that they “may dispose of inventory as provided in the Amazon services business solutions agreement.”
If your case has been closed, you can open a case here to appeal the suspension and request reinstatement. You’ll also have to go through the following steps:
How to Appeal My Amazon Account Deactivation
- In Seller Central, go to Performance and click Account Health.
- At the top of the Account Health page, click Reactivate your account.
- Follow the instructions within the page to submit your appeal. This can include a plan of action or supporting documents. To learn more, see Create a plan of action to reinstate selling privileges.
- Click Submit to send your completed appeal to Amazon.
After submitting your appeal, monitor your email for a reply from Amazon. If you have received a request for more information, click View Appeal from Account Health to submit additional documentation and information required in your next submission. Expect a reply to your appeal within two to three days. Otherwise, we may need to push along their review of the appeal, and to make sure it was received.
How to appeal a listing removal
- In Seller Central, go to Performance and click Account Health.
- Select the issue within the Product Policy Compliance column.
- Follow the instructions within the page to submit your appeal or modify the details on your listing to comply with our selling policies.
After submitting your request, monitor your email for a decision from Amazon.
How Can I Avoid Safety Suspensions on Amazon?
Most safety-related suspensions are the result of already-live products in which the safety guidelines of said product have changed, or were already breached and the seller simply hasn’t been “caught” yet. This is why it’s imperative that you stay on top of the certifications.
Aside from being current on safety regulations for your category, you can take other measures to ensure the quality of your product is maintained prior to selling. One of these measures is product testing.
Hopefully, thus far you’ve been involved in the manufacturing process of your product. This can be a little difficult to do if you don’t live in proximity to the place your goods are made, but that doesn’t mean you should 100% rely on your manufacturing team or local inspectors to confirm a product is safe. Product testing should include hands-on participation by you, the seller of record. While it is impossible to test all of your manufactured products, it is imperative to the success of your business that you inspect random batch samples from your supplier.
This doesn’t just mean inspecting a prototype. You also need to request sample products once the initial batch has been shipped to make sure the final products are in compliance with the original specs, materials, and design.
Hire a third-party inspection team for quality control and to add a layer of professional support. Some sellers choose to rely on their manufacturing team to do this as a means of cutting back on costs, but there is a problem with this method. The manufacturer’s job is to push products as fast as possible so it’s common for them to cut corners on quality control. Neither you nor Amazon wants that.
We understand that hiring a third-party inspection team may be costly up-front, but it could potentially save you thousands of dollars on returns and listing suspensions.
The fact that there really isn’t an official Amazon product approval process won’t do you any good if your product (or the complaint) catches the attention of an Amazon bot. If your product does not meet safety requirements, Amazon will suspend your current listing and down the road, potentially the entire account.
Documentation Of Safety Standards
Even without an official Amazon product approval process, Amazon is very clear that sellers “must comply with all federal, state, and local laws and our policies applicable to those products and product listings, including this policy.”
If you‘ve been asked to provide compliance documentation, this extensive list of information will help you understand what paperwork must be submitted.
Don’t Forget About Product Packaging
Details matter on Amazon more than on any other platform. One of those minor details includes the packaging that your product comes in. This may seem like a trivial thing to overlook, but it is actually so important that Amazon has dedicated a full page of packaging “do’s and don’ts “ on Seller Central covering this subject.
Remember: For Amazon, it’s all about the best buyer experience. For example, if you sell toys for babies, it’s pretty obvious you have to put a warning label of potential choking hazards on the box. But is the box or packaging itself safe for kids? These are details that could easily be overlooked or easily corrected.
Keep An Eye On the Customer Reviews
Customer reviews aren’t just the “secret sauce” to a successful Amazon product launch, they’re also the key to limiting your problems with user complaints. Negative feedback functions as an early warning system that helps you remain proactive and make necessary changes to a product (or packaging) that might just stave off a formal warning, or worse.
Staying Compliant with Amazon Safety Guidelines
The following are steps that all Amazon sellers can take to put themselves in a good position to begin with.
- Comb through your listings’s reviews to search for any instances where a customer uses language that could trigger a safety or an inauthentic product complaint.
Pro tip: You can use SaaS software tools from companies such as Helium 10 to filter through reviews to seek out product listing “hot spots.”
- Immediately address the concerns raised in the complaint. After identifying the cause, you need to enact a Plan of Action. Here is a great article, outlining how you can address your POA.
- Regularly and systematically review your inventory to make sure that everything meets Amazon’s condition guidelines and matches the product detail pages. Inaccuracy will hurt, if buyers don’t think they got what they paid for.
- Be 100% sure you have verifiable invoices to prove your inventory is authentic
- If you’re selling through Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), it might be a good idea to request a bin check. If you don’t have sufficient invoices or are concerned with the quality of the items in FBA, initiate the process of removing them from sale and request removal via Removal Order
How Do I Ensure Quality Control of My Amazon Product?
Amazon aggressively pursues enforcement of those who violate their selling policies.
They divide the potential quality violations into two separate categories: Intellectual property violations and product condition violations.
Amazon outlines the difference here:
- Intellectual property violation:
As a seller, you are responsible for ensuring that the products you sell on Amazon comply with all applicable laws and regulations are authorized for sale or resale and that they do not violate intellectual property rights such as copyrights, patents, trademarks, and rights of publicity.
- Product condition violations:
The product you list and ship must exactly match the description, pictures, and all other information on the product detail page. Items must be delivered to the buyer in the condition described on the product detail page without any damage or defects.
Amazon’s marketplace presents one of the best opportunities for entrepreneurs in 2022, so easily-avoidable problems such as safety hazards should not dissuade you from selling on Amazon. You just have to be careful not to miss crucial due diligence steps as you move forward, especially after going through the above listing suspension process for the first time.
As previously mentioned, Amazon is primarily concerned about their customers’ experience – not yours. So, it is in Amazon’s best interest to maintain the safety and satisfaction of their buyers. Given the lion’s share of the “screening process” for following safety guidelines is conducted by A.I., it’s difficult to argue your way out of a suspension. It’s best to be ahead of the game when it comes to staying current on your certifications and invoice documents.
Follow these guidelines, stay aware of compliance trends, and you will substantially minimize safety-policy risks to your Amazon brand.
In the second part of this two-part series, we’ll address the process of appealing safety complaints. That will include sections on:
- What if you can’t find complaint causes?
- Root causes
- Writing a POA
- Implementing the POA
Tried all of the above measures but still having trouble getting your listing reinstated? Feel free to reach out to Chris or Leah at firstname.lastname@example.org