“Long as my exile, sweet as my revenge!”
~William Shakespeare, Coriolanus
The worst case scenario just became real: your seller account got suspended. Less or no income. Canceled orders. Frozen inventory. Amazon Armageddon. But despite what it seems, it’s not the end of the world. Amazon seller suspensions are repealed every day, and you still have a chance to get reinstated — a good chance if you’re prepared.
Below we outline what the experts suggest for reversing an Amazon account suspension, let’s review the appeal process.
Overview of Appeal Process
Let’s outline the basics. If your account is suspended, you’ll be notified on your Amazon seller account and your status will be listed as “suspended.”
The current procedure states that sellers need to submit a Plan of Action, a written document acknowledging the cause of the offense and outlining proactive steps to correct it. However, participants in the Transparency program have additional limitations: they have to submit a successful Plan of Action in 17 days with no more than two attempts. (We discuss this more below).
For the most part, your appeal depends on how well you write this Plan of Action. So below, we’ve collected some advice from the experts on writing yours the right way. Follow these tips and you’ll be selling again in no time.
1. Eat Crow
If you’re unfamiliar with the expression, it means to admit wrongdoing and endure the humiliation. That, more than anything, is what Amazon is looking for — not because they enjoy watching you squirm, but because they need to make sure you understand the offense so you don’t repeat it.
However, it’s not enough to just plead guilty — you have to explain, in no uncertain terms, what you’re guilty of. Consider the “apparent cause vs. root cause” model:
- Apparent Cause: We made human errors in our inventory management, which led to late delivers and wrong shipments.
- Root Cause: Our inventory management system was prone to human error, and we should have used a more reliable system in the first place.
Both statements admit fault, but only one touches on the root of the problem. Always mention the root cause in your Plan of Action so Amazon knows you “get the point.”
2. Basic One-Two Format
What do you say in your Plan of Action? Two things:
- What you did wrong
- What you’re doing to fix it
That makes your Plan of Action a cross between a problem-solution essay and a written confession. You want to keep it simple, so it should follow the basic essay format of first explaining the problem, and then its solution. You’re not writing a political treatise or anything like that, so there’s no need to complicate things.
A Plan of Action for a simple problem could be as little as two paragraphs, but chances are yours is more complicated. Make sure you address everything, including multiple causes or backup plans.
3. Be Brief
The person who largely decides the fate of your store has an immense pile of Plans of Action to get through, and yours might just be their last one before lunch. Keep your writing brief and to the point — no fluff, no sentimentality, no gushing apologies, no defensive justifications. Just follow the format above and say only what needs to be said.
A Plan of Action should be no longer than one page. If you need to provide a large amount of information, you can expand this to a page and a half — for example, if you have to mention new suppliers you’ll use or list out products individually. However, most of the time everything you need to say should fit on a page; if yours is longer, go back and trim the excess.
4. Second Time’s a Charm
If your first Plan of Action gets rejected, don’t sweat it. According to Chris McCabe, a former member of the Amazon Seller Performance & Policy Team, the majority of Plans of Action are rejected in their first pass.
Before resubmitting, make sure to revise the heart of your Plan of Action for the next pass — not just the words! Often a seller’s response to rejection is just to “switch things around,” rewriting the same sentences in different words, rearranging the order of bullet points, etc. Cosmetic changes.
When a Plan of Action gets rejected, it’s because some piece of information is missing, inaccurate, or not fully addressed. You need to rethink what you’re saying, not how you say it.
Is Amazon Changing Their Suspension Policies?
No one knows what secret changes Amazon plans to roll out in the future, but we are seeing a number of changes in recent months that suggest the company is probing a bit.
As we mentioned above, participants in the Transparency program are subject to more limitations on suspension appeal than other sellers. This change from Fall 2018 seems to coincide with Amazon’s new Account Health Services, another recent change designed to warn sellers before account suspension so they have ample time to avoid it.
Most recently, an anonymous seller revealed how Amazon required them to film a 5-second video of their face to confirm their identity through facial recognition. This could signal not just sweeping reforms in seller requirements, but also the endangerment of customer data as well.
Know what you did wrong but not how to fix it? Check our backlog of articles for lots of advice on Amazon best practices and ways to keep you, your customers, and Amazon happy. In particular, take a look at:
- 5 Tips to Improve Your Amazon Rating
- 10 Common Amazon Inventory Mistakes to Avoid
- How to Lower Your Return Rate on Amazon
Getting through an Amazon suspension is easier if you’re not alone. Feel free to share your experiences and advice in the comments section now — or just take the opportunity to vent!