As a former Amazonian seller account investigator, I’ve spent a lot of time studying Amazon account suspensions for the past three years.
Since the beginning of this year in particular, I’ve noticed that the most common non-performance suspended Amazon accounts drop into the below three buckets:
- Safety violations
- “Inauthentic” item complaints
- Notice claims of rights owner infringement
Which brought up some questions...
Do these each derive from the increased fear buyers have of getting “inauthentic” items or a product not meeting their expectations?
Is it due to the increased amount of attention brands pay to who is selling their products on Amazon, and how they sell them?
Are items less “safe” now than they were previously?
One thing is for certain, none of these three are going away anytime soon.
Let's have a closer look...
1. Safety incidents/ violations:
Are your products creating bad buyer experiences that lead to potential bodily harm?
Based on the language in recent notifications, Amazon Seller Performance teams have pushed past the original parameters around investigating safety concerns.
The good news?
We’ve observed that a solid, detailed Plan of Action matched with appropriate testing documentation and proper improvements to product detail pages will result in the reinstatement of the blocked listing on appeal.
Handled well, the POA works.
Handled inadequately, sellers get stuck.
So what is a safety violation?
Complaints as seen in negative feedback, product reviews or even individual buyer return reasons and messages typically reference health hazards, body ailments, sickness, and dangerous consumer electronics, i.e. ''overheating items that present a fire hazard. ''
All categories can be a target at this point.
I’ve seen buyers report t-shirts for neck openings that the buyer considered a strangling risk.
Now while these types of one-offs may make you want to strangle someone yourself, they are 100% in line with what Amazon policy teams must enforce whenever potential buyer harm is present.
If you cannot come up with several clear solutions which will end the chance of another similar report in the future, they won’t bother continuing to read your listing block appeals. Nor will they reinstate that precious ASIN of yours.
For those of you who see your top-selling ASINs fall for this reason, this represents an incredibly risky proposition.
Have plenty of info readily available to show Amazon how you inspect products, test them and what your Quality Control steps are.
Make sure not only that they match what the product detail pages say about them, but also the instructions on how to use the items.
What you may assume is clear (e.g. knives are sharp) may not match up as well with what that buyer in particular thinks the knife can be used for, and unfortunately, it only takes one to spoil the whole bunch.
Be ready to describe to Amazon your product or process improvements as needed, including revised manufacturing or design plans.
Consider adding any proactive steps that a Plan of Action must have to be convincing.
And if you see a ''Safety Violation'' message from Amazon, take it seriously.
Now they are suspending entire accounts if they think they see any kind of pattern among your ASIN suspension grouping.
I’m happy to look yours over before you send, we do Safety Violations work daily.
2. Inauthentic item complaints: What do They Really Want?
Anyone who sells on Amazon has heard of “inauthentic” notifications, but what does “inauthentic” really mean in their context?
Are they accusing you of selling fake products?
If so, then why are private label sellers getting these, too?
For example, I just had one client who lost a private label listing for their own brand due to an unspecified inauthentic complaint.
Was it from an actual buyer who didn’t like the item quality or from a fake buyer account driven by a competitor who had just hopped on the listing?
Amazon won’t share that with you, you need to review your own account and find out for yourself before appealing.
Spend time in any seller forum or on Facebook groups covering Amazon account appeals and you’ll stumble upon posts from sellers about their suspension.
Many of those are for “inauthentic” items but the sellers posting don’t always cite that they were reported for “counterfeit” per se.
In fact, it seems as if any quality or condition complaint or any doubt that an item matches a buyer’s previous experience with the item (no matter how long ago or whether or not that item matches this ASIN 100%) gets rolled into one large complaint pile called inauthentic.
If brands are complaining that they bought from you only to find the items don’t match their products, or a buyer who reports the product for mismatching their expectations, your reaction will largely stay the same.
Amazon requires a full Plan of Action to go with your overall account appeal.
Make sure to toss in complete, detailed invoices along with authenticity letters from the brand, manufacturer, or authorized reseller. If you have anything important missing, your appeal for reinstatement may come up short.
Product Quality teams want to be tough on authentic item proof, so it’s obey or step aside at this point.
Make sure Amazon investigators can easily verify your supplier info, too, including names of your contact, direct dial numbers, links to a professional- looking website (ideally to the brand’s site, or the manufacturer if you’re the brand).
If they don’t see accurate website info or fail to find “must have” info from their checklists, they reject it and forget it, moving on to a seller who does, while your Amazon account stays permanently suspended.
3. Notice Claims of Infringement: IP/ trademark/ patent/ copyright complaints
Some resellers have now dealt with these for years from brands who either did not know they had legitimate supply chain or did not like the pricing or product detail page representation of their brands on Amazon.
Others are newly experiencing the uptick in friction from brands they have sold for years.
They never know when a brand will try to chase them off a listing, either way, because brands either don’t know them by Storefront names or don’t care who they are.
They just want Amazon to remove them from listings for any number of reasons.
Resellers now invest a lot more in IP lawyers and defend themselves against trademarks than ever before, and for good reason: Amazon will not mediate these disputes for you, nor explain legal options open to you.
That’s all on your shoulders.
If, of course, the Notice claim is from a competitor trying to knock you off however temporarily, (whether or not there’s a violation, whether you’re a reseller or private label) you do have the ability to submit a Notice-Dispute and get your ASIN cleared for sale.
Sellers with no connection to the brands who submit bogus forms face their own suspensions for this behavior. Many have contacted me, quite remorseful, only then fully understanding the implications of what they have done.
Amazon’s Notice process is better than it used to be, so it’s best to be prepared BEFORE warnings hit. It will greatly reduce your likelihood of lost sales and sleepless nights of angst when the suspension comes.
Private label sellers are also coping with false infringement complaints.
It’s tempting to think all copyright, trademark, patent or any other infringement are all fake attempts by sellers to allege they are under attack from a competitor.
My recommendation is to make sure you have a lawyer handy who knows their stuff, and can be reached and reply to you on time when this happens.
Unless you’re a lawyer yourself, you likely don’t want to take chances checking large legal volumes out of the local library to conduct self-study.
I’m guessing your Amazon account has a bit more value to you than to risk that! Choose lawyers operating in this space carefully.
Private Label Sellers: Are you protecting yourself from a “reverse trademark or IP” attack?
In months or years past, many brands had not even registered their trademark before starting to sell on Amazon.
Few expected other sellers to hop on their listings to offer generic-made versions of their branded products, let alone the possibility that anyone else would report THEM, the brand, for a trademark or Intellectual Property violation.
Be ready for this as well.
Most notably I recommend composing messaging that you will have prepared if Amazon ever warns you for a fake version of your own product, or a right’s owner violation.
In more recent months, the rise of patent-based complaints complicated the picture for private label sellers.
All ranges of items that did not appear to be patented attracted attacks from sellers interested in selling the exact same or similar items, once they knew they had a “hit” ASIN on the marketplace.
I’ve had more calls and emails asking me for patent attorney references in the past few months than in the past few years.
Patents involve complex design review and are much tougher to prepare a defense for than, say, copyrighted images or clearly registered trademarks.
Even vague Intellectual Property complaints are routinely turned away by the Amazon Notice squad if a proper Notice-Dispute comes in to shoot down whatever vague original “claims” were made by brands or other sellers.
If you need assistance understanding how things work internally, you're not the first one.
If you need a reliable, responsive and honest IP or trademark attorney to write some letters and assess your needs, I can help get you to someone knowledgeable and reliable.
I’ve got one or two great ones to recommend to you, pre-vetted by my own demands for honesty and integrity.
Need me to explain anything else ? Happy to, suspensions and reinstatements on both ASIN and account levels happen every day around here, weekends, too!