How to Prevent (and Appeal) a Seller Account Suspension From Amazon or Walmart
Getting your Amazon or Walmart seller account suspended can be a harrowing experience, especially if you and your business rely on sales through these marketplaces as a primary source of income. It can take days, weeks, or months to reinstate a seller account, and every hour that your products are unavailable means more lost revenue.
However, we’re here to share some simple steps you can take to prevent these suspensions in the future as well as straightforward procedures you can follow to appeal a suspension that’s already happened.
Why Amazon Seller Accounts Get Suspended—and How to Prevent Suspensions
Amazon suspensions follow trends. One month Amazon might target review manipulation, and the next they might go after sellers with bad performance evaluations. During the first few months of the COVID-19 crisis, they cracked down on almost 4,000 vendor accounts for price gouging, while since May of 2021, they have blocked over 50,000 Chinese vendors for allegedly paying for reviews. Amazon has a customer-first mentality, so they are always on the lookout for business practices they believe may be unfair to customers.
We at Optimyze always keep track of the suspension trends and new policies. There are also a number of issues we keep a lookout for, no matter the current trend.
Review manipulation. Amazon frowns upon Product Review Abuse (PRA). In basic terms, they consider any review for which you have offered some form of compensation to be a fake or compromised review. While this practice might have flown in the past, it’s not being tolerated anymore.
Remember, encouraging a happy customer to leave a review isn’t review manipulation. Giving them something in return for a review or in expectation of a review is. Amazon also considers reviews left by family or friends of the seller to be biased. As important as reviews are to your business, it’s not worth risking a suspension to obtain them from biased sources.
We know it’s currently very difficult to get an account reinstated if you’ve been suspended for PRA, so it’s much better to avoid getting flagged in the first place.
Bad performance evaluations. Amazon wants to make sure customers always have a positive experience on their platform, so they often suspend accounts that have negative customer feedback.
“Used sold as new” complaints, or complaints about inaccurately labeled product condition, are a common experience for resellers. Amazon only considers an item “new” if it’s in its original packaging, unopened, with the original manufacturer’s warranty still active. If your items don’t fulfill all those conditions, you’re risking an account suspension if you label them “new.”
Ensure you have excellent customer service, including on-time shipping, proper packaging, responding to A-to-Z claims (customer complaints sent directly to Amazon about a third-party seller) in a timely manner, and accurate pictures and product descriptions.
Enrolling in Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) can be a good strategy to ensure that you’re meeting Amazon’s packaging and shipping standards. FBA will also provide customer support for clients who buy from third-party vendors enrolled in the program. Optimyze has a nation-wide network of warehousing and fulfillment infrastructure, including FBA, which guarantees excellent customer satisfaction.
Selling restricted products. Amazon is constantly updating its list of restricted products and safety guidelines in response to new information. Make sure you keep up-to-date on all the guidelines pertaining to your products or any ingredients your products contain.
If the FDA, CPSC, USDA, or another government agency makes a negative decision about an ingredient, Amazon will ban any item containing that ingredient. If there is a recall regarding a product you’re reselling, Amazon will also ban it. Bans on individual products can quickly lead to account suspensions, so always pay attention.
Counterfeit complaints. Regardless of whether you’re a reseller or a brand owner, you can get hit by a counterfeit complaint. Don’t attempt to sell generic items as private label items. If your products aren’t generic, make sure to trademark your brand and enroll in Brand Registry—we can help with that, as well as with developing your own product line. If you’re a reseller, ensure you can prove your products are genuine so you can dispute any claims.
Listing violations. Amazon has strict rules about Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASINs) and Product Detail Page (PDP) contents. The easiest way to make sure you’re in compliance with all the rules is to use automation to generate listings for you. Here are the basics:
- Don’t merge the ASIN of an older product with a newer version to transfer reviews. Don’t alter the PDP to describe a product different from the one reviews were written for. Avoid creating duplicate ASINs for the same product.
- For private label items, include your brand name in your product titles.
- Don’t include comparisons to your brand’s competitors, references to other products, links to outside websites, or medicinal claims that haven’t been verified by the FDA in your PDP. Limit details about availability, price, condition, and other time-sensitive information to the proper fields, not the product description, title, or images. Don’t include reviews or testimonials in your product description.
- Only use your own professional photographs, public domain pictures, or stock photos for which you’ve purchased the rights. Avoid including offensive content, unrelated text or images, or confusing backgrounds. Review the Amazon Product Image Requirements and ensure any image you upload is in compliance.
- Ensure your keywords don’t include competing brands, ingredients or materials not included in the product, or unrelated search terms.
Why Walmart Seller Accounts Are Suspended—and How to Prevent Suspensions
Walmart suspends seller accounts for four main reasons: violations of performance standards, the marketplace retailer agreement, operational standards, and trust and safety standards. By automating your Walmart store, you can avoid all of these pitfalls. We’ll go over each category below.
Performance standards violations. The key performance metrics Walmart pays attention to are Order Defect Rate (ODR), on-time shipment rate, and valid tracking rate. Within the last 90 days, your ODR should be less than 2%, and your on-time shipment and valid tracking rates should both be over 99%.
ODR covers issues with product and service quality. To calculate ODR, Walmart takes into account order cancellations by the seller (which could be due to inaccurate pricing, listing, or out-of-stock products), product returns by the customer, late deliveries (which are determined based on Walmart’s Expected Delivery Date or EDD), and customer complaints, even those that are resolved to the customer’s satisfaction.
Walmart expects their vendors to deliver products by the EDD as well as providing valid tracking information within 24 hours of shipment. Keep an eye on these performance metrics to prevent suspensions.
When a performance standards violation occurs, Walmart issues a warning, and you as the seller have the opportunity to provide a justification if you feel you weren’t at fault. Walmart promises not to suspend accounts for under-performing sellers without first allowing you time to make improvements, so always pay attention to their warnings.
Automating your Walmart store through Optimyze can make meeting these performance metrics a breeze. We keep track of your ODR, shipping and tracking, customer service, and any evaluations from Walmart so you never fall behind.
Marketplace retailer agreement violations. All sellers are required to sign and accept Walmart’s Marketplace Retailer Agreement when they join Walmart. Naturally, breaching this legally binding contract can lead to an account suspension. Common violations include selling inauthentic or counterfeit products or used goods. You might also breach your contract by neglecting to fulfill orders, share shipping status, or process returns, refunds, or cancellations.
Operational standards violations. Walmart expects third-party sellers to provide consistent and timely customer service, including providing accurate product information. They also expect compliance with their Respect and Equality standards. Vendors must not participate in underage or forced labor, discriminate based on race, gender, age, or creed, compensate their employees unfairly, discourage the formation of trade unions, or provide an unsafe workplace.
Trust and safety standards violations. Walmart has strict guidelines around food safety and product safety, as well as an extensive prohibited products policy. As these guidelines and policies might change according to new laws and government decisions, make sure to keep up-to-date on the rules related to your products.
Additionally, Walmart doesn’t allow offensive products such as products that include profanity or nudity or encourage discrimination or violence.
Intellectual property violations also fall under this category. Ensure you have the rights to sell any item you list. Regardless of whether you already have a product line, we can help you develop your private label brand, giving you intellectual ownership over every item you sell.
The Appeal Process
Both Amazon and Walmart will send you a suspension notice that includes the reasons for your suspension. You must then submit an appeal to get your suspension lifted. You probably want to get your store back in business as soon as possible, but it pays to take the time to submit a thorough and convincing appeal rather than rushing to respond.
Both marketplaces require sellers to submit a Business Plan of Action (POA) as a pivotal part of the appeal process. This POA should detail how the vendor plans to address the issues Amazon or Walmart has identified with their business practices. The next section will go over how to create a POA and the best format for presenting it to Amazon or Walmart.
Walmart promises to respond to your appeal with their decision within two days. Amazon, however, can take much longer due to the huge volume of appeals they process every day. Don’t submit any additional emails to Amazon unless you haven’t heard from them for a week. Seller Performance, the department you’ll be dealing with, can only be contacted by email.
Whichever company you’re dealing with, be polite, respectful, and professional. Admit your mistakes and how they negatively impacted your customers. Indicate your willingness and commitment to improve your customer service. Be open and honest about your business practices—don’t fabricate or alter invoices for any reason. Don’t open a new seller account, because both Amazon and Walmart can quickly determine it’s you, and it might make them reject your appeal outright.
Please note that in some cases, the appeal process will not be available to you. If Amazon suspends your account or even denies your appeal, you can still contest the suspension, but if your account is banned, they will no longer respond to your emails. Meanwhile, the appeal process is only available for Walmart sellers who have been suspended for a reason other than a trust and safety standards violation. In their suspension notice, Walmart will let you know the earliest date at which you can appeal your suspension.
Creating a Plan of Action (POA)
To create a POA, first begin by reviewing the reasons listed for your suspension and the relevant information from your internal records and seller account. Your response should be thorough and based on concrete evidence.
Next, decide on how you will address the issue by adapting or modifying your business practices. In some cases, this might not be necessary. If your suspension was based on “inauthentic” inventory, for example, you might simply need to provide Amazon with documentation that illustrates your supply chain. However, never blame customers or the platform’s own policies to avoid taking responsibility; that’s a quick way to have your appeal denied.
Make sure to include concrete steps in your Plan of Action. Changing the shipping company you work with, enrolling in FBA or Brand Registry, making use of Walmart’s CedCommerce service to avoid listing errors, or hiring a customer service expert could be part of your POA.
Many experts recommend using bullet points to summarize the steps you plan to take. While you want to be thorough, you also want to be as concise as possible, because investigators only spend a few minutes reviewing your appeal. Open your letter with a short introductory paragraph that shows you understand the reasons you were suspended, have already taken steps to fix any problems, and are committed to customer service. Ensure you include everything that led to your suspension along with how you plan to address those issues. If Amazon or Walmart requests specific documentation, make sure to attach it.
Having a professional handle crafting your POA and submitting your appeal can take a lot of weight off your shoulders—as well as give you the advantage of the professional’s experience in the process. When your store is automated through Optimyze, our expert team takes care of any suspensions that should arise.
Learn and Grow From a Suspension
A suspension can be stressful, but when you create a strong POA to address the problems that led to your suspension, you can strengthen your business. Neither Amazon nor Walmart are likely to reinstate an account that’s suspended a second time, so stick to your POA and do your best to create an amazing experience for your customers. It won’t just keep your account from being suspended again—it will give your business a sturdier foundation.
Remember: selling on Amazon and Walmart is a numbers game, so automation will always give you an edge and help keep you in compliance with all necessary standards. Take advantage of FBA, Walmart Fulfillment Services (WFS), and automation services like what we offer here at Optimyze Digital.