This is part 3 of the interview with Joshua Price of www.SuspensionExperts.com regarding Amazon account suspension and how to prevent that happening in the first place. In part 2 of this interview, Joshua covered some of the performance violation details, and now he’s explaining policy violations that lead to a suspended Amazon account.
Amazon has over 100 pages of different policies, rules, and regulations that you have to follow. That’s a lot of different areas and you can make lots of mistakes. Nobody can remember all of those things and even small little things can exaggerate out to bigger problems quite easily.
Most larger sellers will have more products and more orders. The more things that are happening, the more chance there is for errors to occur. This is especially true if you start bringing in staff and other people into your organization because it increases the risk of someone making a mistake that leads to a suspended Amazon account. We might not be aware of the requirement to have white backgrounds on images, for example. It only takes one member of staff uploading the wrong image or an image incorrectly and you could be suspended for that reason.
Another example is to do with product variations, which has often been a system that has been abused. For people who use it, it’s quite complicated and for an account with 1000 linked listings, it’s almost impossible for a seller to keep track and make sure that products are a true variation as per Amazon’s definitions. All it takes is one small issue, such as accidentally linking products that are not variations of each other, for the account to be suspended.
The more volume, the more products, the more staff involved with your account, the more room there is for issues and mistakes to shut down accounts. So whilst in some online worlds expanding fast and cleaning up the details later can be a viable approach, when interacting with Amazon systems you must have strong internal business systems and be very careful who you let loose on your Amazon account.
A common policy violation is intellectual property rights and complaints. The topic is governed by the laws of the country that you’re selling in, so Amazon tries to be as general and vague as possible. Essentially, this is when you’re selling Brand A and buying it from your supplier. If the manufacturer of Brand A doesn’t really like what you’re doing, they tell Amazon and say there is a problem. Now, because it’s a legal issue about whether you can sell the product—for example, whether you’re infringing on a trademark, design rights, copyright, etc.—you now have a suspended Amazon account until you have sorted out the issue.
Amazon doesn’t want to be involved so they back away until you fix the problem. It’s a fine system; it means Amazon won’t get sued and you have the opportunity to resolve it without Amazon giving you too bad of a penalty. The problem is that Amazon doesn’t vet any complaints. Which means that anyone can make a complaint and you still have to take it seriously because you get suspended for it. The abuse of this infringement system at the moment is causing havoc for sellers because people who are competing with you are making these complaints so that you get kicked off Amazon.
The first step is to work out if it’s genuine or not. The email address the complaint came from is always a good indicator of that. If it’s from a legitimate company the email address will include the domain name of the business. Obviously then it’s something you do need to take seriously. Large companies will also have lawyers first to represent them in these issues. You also need to consult a lawyer if it gets serious. Ideally, you don’t want to need to contact a lawyer or even have this issue, but it does become a legal issue and not an Amazon issue if the company that you’ve infringed on pursues it.
Fortunately for most people, it’s not that. The email is just “[email protected]” and straight away you know they definitely don’t own the product or brand that they’ve alleged you infringed upon. From there, you can contact the person who complained and try to resolve it with them. There can be success with that, especially if you write a legal-esque letter to them.
Also, you still have to go through the same appeal process, like any other type of suspension. You will have to explain to Amazon what they say happened, bring it into reality, and make it match. If the complaint writer doesn’t own it, you prove who does own it and that you’re allowed to sell it. Then, make a plan for how to make sure that’s what happens in the future.
There is no suspension that doesn’t require a plan of action. Whether it’s an error or a genuine issue, you need to write exactly the same method of appeal. It’s always the same three-part structure that Joshua details in parts 1 and part 2.
When you get into these aspects of policy, it does become more complicated because there is actual evidence you can use, such as invoices or a trademark database search. In addition, Amazon will often give you a bit more of a format for what they would like in response. It’s usually worth reflecting that and using their guidelines. Being able to show Amazon that you’ve done some due diligence before you’ve taken on the product is important. Having things like the invoices and proof that you did a trademark search in place will help as a safeguard.
For people doing retail arbitrage, the main struggle here is that you often don’t have invoices or permission to sell those products on a larger scale. If you are manufacturing your own label products or working with a large distributor direct with manufacturers, those relationships are key and you need to consider this long before anything happens. Make sure that what you’re offering is something you’re allowed to sell and you have proof in some way that you can sell it.
Unfortunately, Joshua has seen this go wrong and he warns that you watch out for a lot of Chinese sellers. There is a lot of lying and deceit, and many people believe they have completely genuine products that they are allowed to sell, but unfortunately, it’s not the case. Be vigilant of that, and if in doubt, send it to someone who really knows about this to get it checked out.
For example, as discussed in previous episodes with lawyer CJ Rosenbaum, you can get a Preliminary Search done by a lawyer for about $500 per product. If you are going to be doing big numbers, it’s crucial that you do your due diligence before you even begin to sell.
Think about your long-term business strategy and make sure it is sustainable. If you’re making 100K per month from one product that then gets switched off because you’re facing a big legal case, that’s a big problem. If it’s because you didn’t do your due diligence and make sure you had permission to sell, that’s a nightmare situation.
Joshua also warns about un-vetted information coming from Amazon forums and Facebook groups. He advises that you be wary of who the information is coming from. Joshua has helped over 700 people but often sees people giving advice who have only helped 2 people. There’s a reason he waited before telling the world about suspensions. Itwas to get solid knowledge and background experience. Take the forum information with a grain of salt, especially when it’s from people who lack the experience because each case is different.
Prevention is so key and while Joshua may not be able to make you an extra $100,000 he may save you from losing $100,000 due to account suspension. You lose money every day that you’re suspended so do the prevention work to ensuring your income is stable.
Suspension information changes all the time and Amazon are really unclear. So Joshua writes a monthly newsletter that explains what happened in the suspended Amazon account world each month. It’s called The Platinum Club and it also includes pointers to help you avoid being suspended. For people who aren’t currently suspended but are concerned about preventing it, this is a great place to start.
For people who are suspended, Joshua has two types of services. He has cheaper services for smaller sellers that include resources, plans of actions and guidelines. These explain how to write a really good appeal letter. They include examples of appeals and templates that have worked in the past. That is a low-cost solution and very effective. The other end is for larger sellers and involves one-on-one personal help. This is useful especially for your second or third suspension.
You can find out more at Joshua’s website: www.suspensionexperts.com
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