Amazon's #1 priority is the consumer and in a distant 3rd comes the third-party seller. What does this mean? It means Amazon will not hesitate to suspend your account if your account has racked up certain violations or if suspicious activity has been detected. So it's important that every Amazon seller knows what to avoid in order to prevent their account from being suspended.
Any account on the internet has the potential of being hacked and Amazon accounts are no exception. Many hackers specifically target Amazon accounts in order to have Amazon deposit your sales into their account instead of yours - this actually just happened, read more about it here.
If your account does it get hacked you'll need to reinstate your account, which is probably as fun as you might have guessed. First you'll have to issue an appeal to Amazon's Seller Performance Team. This plan of action will assure Amazon that you are aware of the issue and that you're working on correcting it. Once they review your case (anywhere from 7 to 90 days) and they assess that your account is in your possession, then you're good to go.
To avoid your account from getting hacked, you should use Amazon's two-step authentication system and change your password once a month. If you don't like changing your password once a month we suggest you use a Password Manager (like 1Password) that will allow you to create long and unique passwords that make it extremely difficult for would-be attacked to hack. Two other tips:
- if you every share your account, then you should change it once that person is no longer using it.
- Don't login to Amazon Seller Central over public WiFi... If you do, invest in a VPN
Opening Multiple or Related Accounts
Having multiple seller accounts on Amazon won’t always result in suspension — provided you got permission to do so. Amazon will let you operate multiple seller central accounts if you give them a legitimate business reason, but if you simply open a new account and link it to the first, you will most likely end up with all your accounts suspended for violating the Amazon seller code of conduct. Many sellers try to open several different accounts to spread out products and maximize profit, but doing so skews the playing field in a way that Amazon deems prohibited.
All items sold on Amazon have to comply with federal regulations, from warranty laws to pest control standards. It can be tricky to stay within federal boundaries since many of them often change. The FDA, in particular, is always re-classifying the status of different drugs and supplements. So, for example, if a drug you’re selling is changed to “prescription use only,” it becomes illegal to sell over-the-counter and therefore prohibited to sell on Amazon.
The best way to avoid Amazon seller violations due to changing regulations is to simply stay as up-to-date as possible. You may want to hire an attorney to determine whether the products you will be selling on Amazon are compliant with federal laws. It’s also highly recommended that you get familiar with Amazon’s own policies — just because something is approved by the government doesn’t mean it’s okay to sell on Amazon.
Outside of federal regulations, there are plenty of other products that are restricted on Amazon. Some sellers try to get around these restrictions by listing a product as something slightly different than what it is. Sometimes Amazon’s algorithm even messes up and notes a product as restricted even though it isn’t. Either way, having restricted products tied to your account can get you suspended.
Similar to the federal regulations category, the best way to avoid suspension is to stay up-to-date on Amazon’s restricted selling list and other policies. If one of your listings gets flagged and results in suspension, you should first make sure that the product is indeed restricted. If it’s actually permitted, you can take Amazon to arbitration and make your case. If it’s restricted, remove the product and make an appeal with a plan of action to demonstrate your commitment to following the Amazon seller code of conduct. After that, your account will hopefully be reinstated!
Incentivized Reviews/Review Manipulation
It might be tempting, especially when you’re just starting out, to ask friends and family members to leave positive reviews on your Amazon product pages. You might even think about working with influencers or other savvy shoppers through affiliate marketing to request that they leave reviews as well. However, as of late October 2016, the Amazon Code of Conduct no longer allows these kinds of incentivized reviews, which they now categorize as review manipulation.
Review manipulation might seem like a small thing to make a big fuss over, but on Amazon the customer is king. And if the customer chooses your business because of great reviews only to receive a product that falls below expectations, they’re not going to be happy. You’ll only wind up further behind because you’ll have a suspended account on your hands.
Instead of padding your product listings with fake reviews, focus on selling a great product and being responsive and helpful to your customers. You’ll get reviews organically this way and avoid any Amazon seller violations.
After a certain amount of negative reviews, your seller account could be suspended. There are multiple Amazon listing violations that customers could flag your products for, including:
- Used Sold as New
- Not as Described
- Not as Advertised
Of these violations, selling counterfeit or fake products will get you shut down immediately. The obvious solution here is to not sell counterfeit products and responsibly source the items you sell. However, if your item isn’t actually fake, you just have to provide Amazon with the paperwork to prove it’s real and belongs to you. Amazon can then investigate and, with any luck, reinstate your account in a timely manner so you can get back to business.
The performance tab in Amazon Seller Central will show you your accounts health. If you're in the red in any area, you need to quickly fix the problem. Amazon doesn't disclose what their criteria is for suspending accounts based on account health, but we've talked to sellers who have had their account suspended for only failing a single metric, but in both cases they had been in the red for over a year. Just make sure you stay within Amazon's target and you should be good.