We’ve all heard the horror stories from other Sellers. Some of us have even experienced it. The fear, the frustration, the uncertainty surrounding that one powerful sentence:
You may not sell on Amazon.
It sounds so final, and like you have no recourse. But you do, and this post will explain exactly how you can get back to doing what you do best: selling on Amazon.
First Things First – Time IS of the Essence
When you receive your account suspension letter, you have a limited amount of time to draft an appropriate Plan of Action to Amazon Seller Performance. In fact, you have 17 days from the date you are suspended until you must submit a successful Plan of Action. If you do not send a satisfactory Plan of Action within this time period, you may have to move to alternative strategies of reinstating your account (described later in this article).
Step Two: Start Thinking About What Went Wrong
When Amazon suspends your account, they are doing because they are trying to protect their customer experience. Even if the rules they cite seem unfair or arbitrary, all sellers agree to obey Amazon’s rules when they sell on Amazon. In order to get back to selling online, you will need to first determine what rule (or rules) you broke. Sometimes Amazon cites the rules you broke in their suspension email. Other times, they leave it up to you to figure out what you did wrong.
Regardless of what you believe, the first step to getting back to selling online to is to determine the root cause of your suspension. Somewhere, somehow, you violated an Amazon rule or policy. If you want to sell on Amazon again, you will need to take ownership of the problem.
TIP: Amazon isn’t looking for excuses or finger-pointing. You were the seller, and even if the problem was caused by your supplier, in Amazon’s eyes the problem is 100% your problem. The first step to selling again is to accept that ultimately you are responsible for what went wrong, and to figure out what exactly it is that was wrong.
PRO-TIP: Sometimes it can be hard for Sellers like us to figure out what went wrong with our accounts. If this happens, it may be helpful to let a trusted advisor look at your account. When you allow an Attorney who specializes in Amazon Sellers to look at your account, not only is your account being looked at by someone with experience in getting accounts reinstated, but also they are looking at your account through the lens of attorney-client privilege. This means that anything and everything they see will be kept 100% confidential, and cannot be used for any purpose other than to help you and your business.
Step Three: Pinpoint the Problem and Start Analyzing
When you have figured out what caused your account to be suspended, it’s time to start analyzing what caused the problem in the first place. This means thinking critically about your business, your business practices, and how the Amazon policy was violated. Remember, if your product did not match the detail page because Quality Fade caused your supplier to cut corners, that is still your fault for not doing spot checks of the inventory prior to sending it to the Amazon Fulfillment Center. If you are accused of having a product returned as “Used sold as New”, think about what may have caused this. Did you have Amazon repackaging turned on? Or, did your packaging get damaged on its way to the FC?
TIP: If you have trouble pinpointing the problem, an attorney focused on Amazon Sellers might be the solution you need. Amazon Seller’s Attorneys such as myself have experience with suspensions, and can use our experience to work with you and determine the problem.
Step Four: Take Ownership of the Problem and Draft Your Plan of Action
This step is truly crucial. Let your ego go out the window, and put on your CEO hat. This step is to take ownership of the problem and begin putting your plan into words. You will want to write clearly and directly to the Amazon team, showing that you are taking ownership for the problem. You will want to identify the problem, how it happened, and what you have done to correct it. Equally important, you will want to provide concrete steps to the Amazon team showing what changes in your business operations that you will take to ensure compliance with Amazon policies in the future.
TIP: When writing your Plan of Action, make sure you take your emotion out of the letter. This letter should be extremely professional, remembering that if you ever do have to go to Arbitration with Amazon any email you send related to your suspension will be an Exhibit for Amazon. Everything you write must be professional, factual, and correct. This is one reason why having a Seller’s Attorney draft the Plan of Action is often considered the best option, because having a neutral third party to draft the Plan of Action will help ensure that you write the best possible Plan of Action to give your company a chance of reinstatement.
Step Five: Proofread, Fact check, and Review
This sounds simple, but it is vital to your efforts that you proofread your Plan of Action before you submit it to Seller Performance. You should ensure all statements are factually correct, well-written, and free from emotion. You also will want to make sure that any references to the customer refer to them as “Amazon’s Customer” or “Your Customers.” Remember – shoppers on Amazon are Amazon’s customer, and not your customer. Seller Performance is trained on this very heavily, so referring to the customers are “Our customer” or “My customers” will only get you into further trouble – JUST DON’T DO IT!
TIP: If you have a friend or family member who is very good at writing or proofreading, pass your letter along to them. Alternatively, if you are uncomfortable at all with what you have written, now is a great time to hire a lawyer like Schick Legal Solutions. You only have a limited number of tries to get this right, and you don’t want to spend them sending a Plan of Action that doesn’t meet Amazon’s stringent criteria for acceptance.
Step Six: Submit, Wait, Revise, Re-Submit
Once you are confident in the letter you wrote, submit it to Amazon via either the Seller Central dashboard or the email link you received from them. Make sure you follow the instructions in the suspension email they sent to you so that your Plan of Action is sent back to the correct team.
After you submit your Plan of Action, wait for them to respond. It may take a while, or they may respond right away. It depends on the workload for Seller Performance as to how soon you will hear back from them. If they accept your initial Plan of Action, great! Congratulations, you are back in business! If you receive another email back from them requesting revisions, carefully read their email response to determine what they are looking for. If you are stuck or unsure how to proceed, it might be time to hire an attorney to help you draft a follow up Plan of Action.
TIP: You only have a few tries to get your Plan of Action accepted by Seller Performance. If you don’t feel confident in your ability to make the revisions they are asking for, now is a great time for you to stop and find an attorney who can help you write a Plans of Action. Schick Legal Solutions is happy to help you with your Plan of Action, and offers flat-rate pricing for your initial Plan of Action and any follow-up Plan of Action revisions.
What Happens if They Do Not Accept My Plan of Action?
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, Amazon does not accept your Plan of Action. In this scenario, it may be very scary, and seem final. You either receive a final email from Amazon stating “You may not sell on Amazon.” or you’ll receive no email responses at all from Seller Performance. At this junction, you have several options to get your account reinstated. Generally, it is highly recommended that you retain an attorney to represent you. When Amazon Seller Performance has refused reinstatement, you still may be able to get reinstated by doing the Bezos Escalation. The Bezos escalation means having a superior Plan of Action prepared for you, and then submitting it to Jeff Bezos directly at [email protected] Jeff Bezos’s team will review your request, and has the authority to reinstate your account if they agree with your Plan of Action. However, sometimes even this does not work. This leaves two options: 1) have your lawyer contact Amazon’s Legal Team, or 2) file for Arbitration.
As a last resort prior to filing for arbitration, you may be able to get your account reinstated by having a lawyer reach out to Amazon’s Legal Team on your behalf. In this scenario, your lawyer will draft a very professional letter to Amazon, which will detail the timeline of the actions you took, who you contacted, and include a professionally-written Plan of Action. Often, the Plan of Action presented by the Attorney to the Legal Team at Amazon is the exact same Plan of Action the attorney would have drafted for you from the beginning, and would have been accepted by the Seller Performance Team. This is why it is best practice to hire an attorney as soon as you are suspended – so that you can focus your time and energy on what you do best: Selling.
If the legal escalation route fails, you may need to take the decision away form Amazon. You can accomplish this by filing a demand for Arbitration with the American Arbitration Association. You will need an attorney to help you file for arbitration. During arbitration, Schick Legal Solutions can help you with your case by helping ensure the arbitration demand is professionally written and contains the necessary elements to state your claim. At Schick, we will cite to the relevant portions of the Amazon policies and agreements, and use them to help you build a strong case against Amazon. The arbitration hearing can take place in person or over the phone / video conference, and the arbitrator will consider all of the evidence in the case. After the hearing, the arbitrator will make a binding decision, and Amazon must comply with the arbitrator’s order to reinstate your account if the arbitrator finds in your favor.