Hello and welcome back!
Today, we’ll take a look at a very common question that many newbie Amazon sellers ask, which is “how can I make sure Amazon won’t suspend my seller account?!”
It does sound like a counterintuitive thing for someone who is just starting out and hasn’t even sold anything yet to ask, but I get it! People are scared of all the horror stories about suspended accounts from Amazon’s seller central forums and are genuinely sensitive about this topic. No one wants to make any mistakes that could potentially lead to an account suspension.
My first piece of advice is to spend LESS time on the Amazon seller forums!
No, seriously, do not spend hours each day reading the Amazon seller forums. They’re full of NEGATIVITY! You have to understand that people only use these forums when they’re in trouble and are seeking help. This makes it look like every other seller out there has their account suspended by Amazon—which is simply NOT TRUE!
I have never posted anything on that forum and there are millions of other sellers just like me. You don’t post there until things go bad.
Also, Amazon’s seller forums, in general, are mostly visited by “old” Amazon sellers, those who have been around from the days when Amazon was all about books. That’s why you will also see lots of posts about sales going down each year (while we all know that Amazon has been growing at a double-digit rate each year for the last decade,) and all kinds of other nonsense (they can’t even accept that FBA is the way to go nowadays!).
So, just be aware of this fact and don’t use the seller forums as some kind of TRUE and HONEST reflection of what’s going on with the majority of Amazon sellers. I still visit the forums and research specific topics from time to time to get the latest news, etc., but I don’t spend my time reading negative posts about how BAD and EVIL Amazon is. You know that your time can be spent much more productively on other tasks.
By no means am I defending PayPal here. They have problems and they make mistakes, but while 6,600 people who have left reviews and rated it very low, hundreds of millions of people are happily using PayPal every day and rate it 10 out of 10! This just shows how misleading such online spaces can be, because they are the places where people only go when things go wrong.
Secondly, many people with suspended Amazon seller accounts have made some sort of mistake. Often, they didn’t read the small print, they messed up an address or their ID verification, they sold a fake item, sold a patented item or something else that rightly got their account suspended. They simply messed it up themselves. And, yes, I do believe that some of those people made genuine mistakes, but still, they breached a rule and were punished for that.
Lastly, even these two groups together make up only a VERY small percentage of all Amazon sellers. I don’t have the numbers on hand (no one has), but my guess is that it is less than 1%. And sellers who were banned for no reason at all are very rare (compared to the size of the marketplace).
You should NOT spend your valuable time worrying about your account getting a suspension when you’re just starting out. If you know the rules and play by them, you will be fine in 99.99% cases.
How to AVOID Amazon Seller account suspension!
What are those rules?
Here are a few of the most important ones:
1) Provide genuine information about you and your business. Do not try to mislead Amazon at any stage as they will check and verify your ID, address and business information when you reach a certain selling threshold (at the time of writing this, it is €15,000). If something does not add up, you may end up losing your account. As long as you tell the truth about you and your business, and you can prove it, this won’t be a problem.
2) Make sure you select the CORRECT business type on the registration form (sole trader, limited company, partnership, etc.), as people often make a simple mistake here that causes a lot of problems later on when the verification process starts. Amazon will also ask you for some proof of address, which you need to have on hand.
3) Do NOT sell branded goods on Amazon! This is a super quick way of getting into trouble. If someone reports that you are selling a fake/counterfeit item (even if you’re not), your account may get suspended.
There’s no profit in branded goods anyway, unless you live in the US and can take advantage of the massive sales they have there and have built your business around the retail arbitrage model (which is very risky). Margins for brand-new branded goods are super slim and you will only be able to compete by having the lowest price, as everyone who has that item will be listed under ONE listing on Amazon.
The only way to build a long-term, sustainable business on Amazon is to create your own brand or create your own products. That’s it.
I have been successfully following this model for 15 years now—previously on eBay and now on Amazon—and it is the ONLY long-term business for small-time traders that works. Do not waste time trying to find a golden egg or one of those mythical products with low competition and super-high margins—they don’t exist!
4) Do not sell FAKE goods! As obvious as this may sound, some people still believe that they can import fake goods from China for a fraction of the cost and sell them for full RRP on Amazon. This includes clothing items, handbags, DVDs, electronics and everything else. Just don’t do it. You can’t build a business selling counterfeit items, and if you start doing this, one thing is for sure: Amazon will suspend your account in no time!
5) Keep your account SECURE! Do not click on any links in emails, messages, SMS or act on calls asking for your login information. Set your account password to something super strong and use the TWO-STEP verification (essential!).
Again, this sounds very simple and you would think that everyone is doing it, but you would be wrong! People’s devices get hacked all the time, so don’t let it happen to you! At a minimum, use the two-step verification for login as that’s the most secure way of locking down your account.
If someone hacks your account and changes your bank account details or whatever else, then you could get into trouble very quickly. Amazon could suspend your account. It won’t really matter that your account was hacked because it was due to your lack of diligence about basic account security. Amazon may give you a second chance in such cases, but they will ask you to provide a plan of action on how you will make sure this won’t ever happen again (and these “plans of action” are very hit and miss with Amazon).
6) DO NOT sell prohibited items! Amazon provides a very clear and long list of what you can and can’t sell on their platform, including which items you are allowed to use with FBA and which you are not. Just stick to the rules. Don’t be greedy and try to sell something that you shouldn’t.
I have seen people do this all the time. They know that a product shouldn’t be listed on Amazon, but they see that a few other sellers are selling the item and make a killing (obviously, since there’s no competition)! Then, a few months after they start selling, Amazon takes everyone down. Accounts get suspended and they end up stuck with stock they can’t sell. Just don’t do it.
7) Keep your account metrics in good shape! If you’re using FBA (which you should, in most cases), as long as your products are top quality, you won’t have any problems here. My account metrics stay at 0 and it has been that way for years now. If you send low-quality items, get lots of returns/refunds or send goods out on your own, you will have to work hard to maintain those metrics. If you can’t maintain them and lose your account, no one will be able to help you.
8) DO NOT use black hat marketing tactics! This applies to everything, including keyword hacking, keyword stuffing, brand name use in keywords, buying reviews, participating in reviews groups on Facebook, etc. If it is a BLACK or even GREY hat shortcut to avoid a rule or make you look better, don’t do it! Amazon will catch you and it will be your fault, not someone else’s.
Be very careful with any information you learn from US-based Amazon FBA Facebook groups as they often share very dodgy tactics about how to get rankings, which later on turn out to be against Amazon’s TOS and often result in accounts being shut down.
I understand the difference in mentality and why Amazon US sellers are different. They often go for the all-or-nothing approach. They take risks and sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. If that’s your type of thing, you can do it. But for most people who are risk averse, I always recommend playing it safe, even if it means it takes longer to grow your business. At least you can get a good night’s sleep knowing you’re not purposely breaching any rules or risking your account.
9) DUPLICATE accounts. Amazon only allows one seller account per individual and one seller account per company. You have to be very careful here as I have heard of stories that even multiple accounts from the same HOUSEHOLD can count as duplicates and get your account suspended.
If you have an old suspended account, Amazon will have a record of it. If you decide to open a new one, it’s likely that the new account will also be suspended.
Amazon does allow separate accounts for separate limited companies, though, even if they’re owned by the same person. But you still have to contact Amazon BEFORE you open that second or third account to get their permission. If it’s all legit and they’re truly separate companies that are selling different goods, you won’t have any problems with this.
Ok, the list goes on and on, but the ones listed above are the most important, in my opinion.
If your account has been suspended, then yes, go onto the Amazon seller forums and search for cases similar to yours to see if there is any solution. There are many situations where you can turn things around and get back on the platform. I’m not an expert on suspended accounts, though, so I won’t be able to provide much information here. There’s a good forum that is based around this topic. You can find it here:
Also, there are companies online who provide services to help you get your account reinstated. I don’t have any specific recommendations, but you will find many such websites online if you search on Google for “amazon seller account suspension”.
My main goal with this post was to reassure new Amazon sellers that your account is NOT in danger if you do everything right! There’s a very, very small chance that your account will get suspended for no reason. Do not take Amazon’s seller forums as a mirror of how things are on Amazon in general. It simply does not reflect the real situation.
Lastly, I do believe that in the future, the situation with WRONGLY suspended accounts will improve as the European Commission has started several investigations into Amazon’s business practices. Just like Facebook, YouTube and other large companies, Amazon will face more scrutiny and regulation from governments in years to come.
Ok, that’s it for today. If you have a question for me, please get in touch via my helpdesk here. I personally answer all emails within 24 hours, Monday to Friday.
Alternatively, you can also post your comments/questions/suggestions in the comments box below. Again, I reply to all comments personally and will try to help out as much as I can. But as I said, I’m not an expert on suspended accounts, so I won’t have much information on that. I would also be very grateful if anyone who has had an account suspension and got out of it could share their story with my blog readers.