At Indian Online Seller (IOS) we recently discussed how fashion etailer Jabong terminates sellers’ accounts without any reason and how it affects sellers’ business. But if there is one online marketplace that is notorious for seller account suspensions without providing a valid reason then that’s Amazon.
Account suspension is necessary at times and there is a process to reinstate Amazon account. But what happens when the marketplace stonewalls sellers’ queries about account terminations? Let’s ask online seller Bhavesh who got a taste of Amazon’s stonewalling skill.
Account suspended in just 6 months
“I have been selling online since last 4 years and so far my experience as a seller has been good with Flipkart, Snapdeal, Paytm etc. Last year in April 2016, we received calls from Amazon, asking us to get on board and after sometime, in May 2016 we joined Amazon,” says Bhavesh while speaking to IOS.
But within 6 months of his joining, the online marketplace suspended his account without explaining the cause of termination. In November 2016, Bhavesh received the news about his seller account suspension and Amazon held his funds without giving any specific reason. He did appeal a couple of times but all he got was scripted replies.
Third-party service helped the seller to understand the reason behind suspension
Several sellers have accused Amazon of pushing third-party services to reactivate suspended accounts. Read this Amazon Seller Central thread where you can see comments of sellers recommending various firms to reinstate accounts.
In January 2017, IOS had published seller Neeraj Khanchandani’s interview who had shared that when sellers approach Amazon by submitting Plan of Action (POA), they are hoodwinked. And the very same sellers receive emails about on-boarding again, but this time using Amazon Third Party Services. He went on to add that Amazon shares data with these service providers who then levy more charges to onboard these sellers.
Bhavesh too had to use the service of one such company to reinstate his account as Amazon refused to tell him the reason for suspension.
“We then started calls from third party service providers for reinstation of account. On investigation third party service provider informed us that account was suspended for incorrect mapping for some of products,” says Bhavesh.
“Fact was Amazon never informed us, about this in past and neither did they informed this to us even when we appealed about mapping issues. We paid fees to this service provider and got account reinstated… They informed service provider about mapping issue, which means they somehow want sellers to get in touch with service provider only, pay them their fees and only then they reinstate accounts.”
When asked about the charges, Bhavesh informs IOS that the third-party service asks for minimum Rs. 2000, but it varies from account to account.
Suspension reappears in February 2017
After shelling out money and submitting POA, things were fine for a while. But Amazon suspended the seller’s account in February this year. And once again, Amazon has refused to divulge the reason for account suspension. So what happened the second time around, IOS asked Bhavesh.
“In February 2017, we suddenly got a lot of orders for one of the hot selling products. But due to improper handling by their courier and COD fake orders, we did get lot of returns; still we kept mum on that. Also, some of the customers complained about damages in transit, which we reported to Amazon too. We immediately discontinued selling this product to avoid fake orders and damages in transit. But suddenly again in February they suspended our account and now it has been May. They are not even giving us exact reason for suspension,” states Bhavesh.
What is baffling is that Amazon changes the cause of suspension with each appeal of the seller.
“Firstly they said account was suspended for high order defect rate. Ours was 1.8% in last 30 days, against targeted 1%. We appealed with plan of action and giving them information in full detail, that we have discontinued selling product causing defect rates and all. Without reading that we got a scripted reply that account cannot be reinstated. Thankfully we had mail track alert installed in our system which let us know that their performance team had replied back to us without even reading our plan of action, because our POA mail was still unread,” shares the seller with IOS.
The text in the above image says (dated 11th February 2017) that Amazon removed Bhavesh’s selling privileges because the order defect rate (ODR) does not meet Amazon’s performance target of less than 1%.
Reason of suspension jumps from ODR to LSR
Once the seller realised that Amazon didn’t even read his plan of action, he wrote an email to Amit Agarwal, Amazon India’s VP and Country Manager. Kanishk from the escalations team contacted Bhavesh and asked him send POA for late shipment rate, which was never an issue at the first place. The issue was of high order defect rate (ODR), like the seller mentioned above. But suddenly the reason of suspension moved from defect rate to late shipment rate (LSR).
“He (Kanishk) said still he needs that (POA for late dispatch rate). We said how can we prepare action plan for problem, which has never occurred and still wanted us to do so, hence we then sent him plan of action for late dispatch rate,” reasons Bhavesh.
We can reinstate account if you sign-up for 100% FBA model, says Amazon
After several back and forth and reviewing the seller’s POA, Amazon informed him that they can reinstate his account only if he is ready to sign-up for 100% FBA model.
The text in the above image says (dated 8th March 2017) that the seller performance team has requested the seller to agree to 100% FBA model for account reinstatement opportunities.
“We have 1 lac plus SKUs live on channel. We already had heard lots of complaints from co-sellers about FBA overcharging fees and all. That was the main reason that till date we had never joined FBA. Still we informed him that we are ready to go with FBA too if they allot us as much space as required for all listings we have live on channel,” says Bhavesh.
“This all went on for a month and then suddenly he sent us a mail that account cannot be reinstated because our refund rate in past month was above 20%. This was frustrating for us, first of all they wanted plan of actions for all different issues, which had never occurred! Then they wanted us to go for full FBA and that too without allotting us the required space. Then they excused about high refund rate, which was all thanks for fake COD orders, constant undeliverable orders of ATS damages in transit by ATS courier. At no point we got specific reply or help and all they did was sending scripted replies,” says the seller exasperatingly.
The text in the above image says (dated 30th March 2017) that the seller performance team has reverted that the seller’s account cannot be reinstated due to poor performance, poor quality of products and high refund rate. Amazon also added that the decision is final.
It has been 3 months and the seller’s account is still suspended. His funds have been blocked and he did not get reimbursements for damages & wrong returns in transit.
Agreed, that a seller’s account can be suspended for multiple reasons. But why did the reason for suspension changed every week? From ODR to LSR to high refund rate, Amazon failed to communicate the reasons at one go, which hints at the fact that something is not right.
Bhavesh believes that Amazon is pushing its FBA service to increase their revenue. And he doesn’t mind signing up for it. But he is concerned about the list of issues, which FBA vendors often complaint about. He wants to continue selling on Amazon and expand his business, provided Amazon shows that they care for their sellers.
Online Sellers, do you have any suggestions for Bhavesh? How can he reinstate his account? Are there any tricks or hacks that sellers like him can apply to start selling on Amazon once again? Do you think Amazon follows fair business practices as far as handling sellers is concerned?