We've seen a ton of related account suspensions this year! Otherwise unproblematic accounts have been shut down over a slight relation to a suspended account. In this episode Chris & Leah discuss the different scenarios that could cause a related account suspension and how to appeal them correctly.
[00:00:07] Chris: Hey everybody. Welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions, Chris McCabe of EcommerceChris here, former Amazonian, and I'm here with Leah McHugh. E-commerce consultant, Amazon expert. Former brand manager. You've got a long list of credentials that I'm not going to take everyone through here, but glad to be talking to you about this particular topic, because we've been hearing nothing but bad things about these related account suspensions about how they negatively impact brands that are otherwise okay and functioning, smooth metrics, no policy violations. You've seen a lot of this. I've seen a lot of it. Maybe the best place to start is a recent conversation I had with a brand who opened a new account. It was a legitimate second account for a different brand.
And somewhere somehow stumbled through the verification process. Sometimes it's as simple as a typo or...
[00:01:09] Leah: a different abbreviation on the way they put the street name.
[00:01:13] Chris: Right. I mean, it could be a typo. I'm starting to wonder if there were some machine learning or AI problems on Amazon's side.
I'm hearing from people like no, there isn't a discrepancy. There are no typos, all info matched in seller central. They still rejected the documents. And wouldn't verify us. I'm hearing that more now. And it's not just new sellers, . We used to hear from people who had never sold anywhere, let alone on Amazon.
They'd never been in business before. Maybe they didn't even have a brand before, but as time goes on and these related account blocks are piling up, and people are appealing them left, right. And center and all the delays and backlogs. Now we're hearing from brands who are opening a new account, not violating the multiple account policy.
These are viable new accounts, but because they fail registration, we're hearing that their original account, which could be a brand doing what 10, 12, 14 million a year is impacted. And then that account gets blocked for related.
[00:02:16] Leah: Yeah, it's interesting because we hear stories like that, where they know exactly what accounts Amazon thinks that they're related to, but then they're also like the wild ones where it's some random third party that they're using, which obviously as a third party is going to be accessing multiple accounts, whether it's software or a service provider. And so then you have to try to figure out how you're related to this other account that you actually have nothing to do with, because it's the consultant or the employee or whoever that's actually the relation.
So you have to go down this rabbit hole to figure out how you're even related to a suspended accounts. Which is interesting because...
[00:02:58] Chris: It could be an old relation that doesn't even exist now. And that can be appealed. I mean, that's the good news if it's really old.
[00:03:04] Leah: I have noticed though, that account health will actually give you like the full name of the account now, rather than just three letters where you have to figure out what those stood for.
[00:03:11] Chris: Right. So the message they send in your notifications will be the written message mentions the three letters. The calls to account health tend to, not everyone does this, but sometimes they just tell you the name of the account. We're talking today mostly about people that do recognize the relation. They're like, yeah, I know I opened a new account because they have a different brand or a different business.
I mean, let's face it. Aggregators must be dealing with this as well.
[00:03:40] Leah: And agencies.
[00:03:42] Chris: Then there's companies that are not big aggregators that are well-known with lots of articles about how many hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital they've accrued. These are smaller businesses that are operating or acquiring brands that are having these problems, too.
And to think that you could be losing everything on Amazon just because you open a new account where they think something's off or maybe something is off. Maybe there's an address that doesn't match. Maybe there is something legitimately there.
[00:04:12] Leah: I think my biggest concern, if I were purchasing an account wouldn't necessarily be, cause obviously any of the risks of the account, hopefully you're doing your due diligence in advance and you'd be able to see what they've been doing before you purchase the account.
But I mean the bigger concern is you doing due diligence isn't going to show you every employee that's ever worked there or consultant that they've ever used and who they are all related to as well. It's this web that if you're purchasing an account and you don't necessarily have access to, which could cause that account to be blocked for related, which could then cause all of your other accounts to be blocked for related.
[00:04:48] Chris: That's almost another podcast episode on best practices and who you're letting sign in and mixing and matching of address info, reusing, like we've seen the shared warehouse stuff be a big problem.
[00:05:01] Leah: Yeah. So a lot of three PL's use the same returns email address across all of their accounts. A whole bunch of people were suspended because they use the same warehouse.
[00:05:11] Chris: There was a service provider that was reusing addresses. So we don't have to name who that was, but it's not just addresses as we've also seen people reusing email addresses over and over, and that connects numerous accounts to each other. You've seen a lot of cases where there's a suspension in an international marketplace. I definitely want to talk about that because it doesn't necessarily impact North America. So North America is Canada, Mexico, US. It doesn't necessarily suspend your US account to have your UK accounts suspended, but the people you've talked to didn't even know they had an international marketplace suspended.
[00:05:49] Leah: Well, because they weren't actually selling on that marketplace. When you sign up to be a global seller, it just opens up all of these accounts that you don't necessarily sell on. So they didn't actually realize it until they tried to enroll in brand registry and got kicked back which we've talked about in another episode but what's interesting is that they would block their, let's say Canadian accounts for being related to another suspended account, but then it wouldn't block there other selling accounts and other marketplaces, but using the logic of being related to a suspended account, you would think that it's only a matter of time before all of their other marketplaces go down for being related to a suspended account.
[00:06:33] Chris: That's what's making it crazy. I think seller performance investigators themselves don't seem to understand some of this and they can't predict, like in the old days, you had a penny you account that would be suspended. Maybe that would take down your UK account with it. If that wasn't part of it.
But I mean, North America would be left alone now. And then we started seeing people. Well, I'm suspended in Canada and Mexico, but my US account is still up. This was the big, hot topic last year. Why Amazon insists on doing all this related account suspension in October, November two years in a row, I have no idea, but it's hard to predict some people have Brazil suspended and then that takes down their Mexico account, but Canada is still active.
[00:07:14] Leah: Right. And I guess that's the part that I don't understand is the logic behind it. I understand that the whole idea behind suspending an account that's related to a suspended account is because it's based on the assumption that your doing the same things on that account as a suspended account, that was suspended for a reason, so that's where the logic doesn't make sense to me because why would they only suspend one of your international marketplaces in that case? Shouldn't it be all of them? None of it makes any sense to me as to why?
[00:07:46] Chris: Yeah. I think the enforcement of the SOP, the standard operating procedures within Amazon are very haphazard anyway, but I think there's some kind of a mixed bag of machine learning and AI here, that's not quite firing the right way.
[00:07:59] Leah: And don't get me wrong. I mean, I'm glad that they aren't suspending all of your national marketplace accounts. But why suspend any of them for this? The reasoning behind it doesn't make sense anymore because it's being enforced so badly.
[00:08:13] Chris: I think the global selling thing went away for a little while because people stopped checking that box saying, I want to sell globally because they started failing registration in all these other marketplaces.
Either Amazon moved to fix that or word got out that you shouldn't be clicking that box. So I mean that kind of receded into the background throughout 2021. But we're still seeing all these related account suspensions, I have heard of this account, but I have nothing to do with that business.
That was a few years ago. That's one type. The other type of course is I might have a relation, but I don't know if it's a distant relative, a family member. I mean, you would have to do the homework to figure that out.
[00:08:53] Leah: There's also the ones where it's like an ex-business partner and maybe things didn't end so well, and so getting any information from them on their account is going to be impossible.
[00:09:02] Chris: Right. But you should be able to produce documentation that shows a disclusion of that partnership.
[00:09:07] Leah: Well, yeah. And that's actually what I wanted to bring up, in terms of, if you're working in other accounts or you have a partnership that's dissolved or any of those things, make sure that you get documentation showing the end of that relationship because ultimately that's what Amazon wants to see.
Not just like, oh, well, I haven't signed into that account for five years. Like they want to see contracts, anything on paper to document the fact that that relationship finished on whatever date and you have no relationship to each other anymore,
[00:09:41] Chris: Right. Or a terminated employee. And they've got their own seller account.
[00:09:44] Leah: Yes. If you're terminating any relationship with anybody that has anything to do with your account, make sure you have it in writing.
[00:09:51] Chris: That's what the good news is. If it's a former employee, I mean, you have to document termination for all kinds of reasons, legal and otherwise taxes .
[00:09:59] Leah: Assuming you were paying them on the books.
[00:10:02] Chris: Well, you should be paying on the books. Yeah, of course. But you've got a termination letter. Well, you've got a date that you stopped payroll for them. You've got a termination letter and you can produce that and you might not have any contact with the former employee anymore, of course.
But if they're suspending you now for it, that theoretically means that their account was suspended recently. Well, recently is one date. And when you terminated them might be six months before that. So you have an argument you can make there to establish that you're no longer related to that account.
[00:10:37] Leah: You want to be doing the same thing with your service providers. And I don't think a lot of people do that with their service providers. Like you want to have something in writing saying that you are no longer working with them because Amazon's not just going to take your word for it.
[00:10:51] Chris: Don't take it for granted. Document everything. Even if you don't think you need it now, you might need it later. We've had some people suspended for related for r elationships that were back in 2018, 2019, 2017, having that documentation is going to be very helpful. And of course, you want to keep track of who's getting access and you want to have a procedure for this because seller performance for proprietary reasons is not going to tell you and neither will account health reps, exactly how you're related. They expect you to know that. Because you're the owner of record of that account.
[00:11:27] Leah: I also would like to say, and this should go without saying, but I am surprised at how many people offer this to me. Don't let other people log in with your credentials. I still have people ask if I want their credentials to log into their accounts. So please don't do that.
[00:11:44] Chris: It happens less often now than it used to at least, but we do occasionally get that. That's crazy. Don't do it . But yeah, understand this is not an appeal that should be taken lightly. Like, oh, they say I can appeal this as an error. Well, it's definitely an error because we haven't partnered with that person since 2019 so I'm just going to appeal it as an error. No, when you appeal it as an error, you're telling Amazon, you misread your own tools. You misread those data points. You made a mistake. And if they look at it and it's true that they completely made the wrong call then yeah, that error option works. All these extra other people appealing this is an error, that's not what they mean. Don't do that.
[00:12:23] Leah: And if you do still know the person, we've had people who are able to appeal it because they still know the person that they're related to and they know that that original account got reinstated. So then it's super easy to appeal. All you have to do is say like that's already reinstated, reinstate us.
[00:12:38] Chris: Yeah, exactly. That's the good news in this otherwise bad news episode about related accounts.
[00:12:43] Leah: Oh, and one last thing, they have at least simplified the appeal form now where it does actually guide you through exactly what kind of information they want.
They're not making you do the whole root causes and future prevention stuff for this anymore. They are very specifically telling you what you need to provide in order to get reinstated for related, which is nice. And another good news.
[00:13:06] Chris: That's a good point, which I should have brought up because a lot of sellers appealing this are borrowing copy and paste garbage from wherever on the internet or forums, or I don't know, groups and they're using the wrong format. So it's obvious that you just like, found this on the back of a napkin somewhere and copied it into an appeal. You're guaranteeing yourself failure.
We hear one out of a thousand people say nope, I used a copy and paste template and it worked great. We're not unhappy for you that it worked. That is such a low percentage. Please. Don't just copy and paste random garbage that you see.
[00:13:42] Leah: And also it's not even necessarily that the POA is bad because I've had people showing me my own POA that I wrote for somebody else that they submitted and they're like, it didn't work. And I'm like, yeah, because that was a totally different scenario. It doesn't apply to yours. So it doesn't even matter, even if it's a good POA, it's still probably will not work for you. if it's not tailored to your situation.
[00:14:03] Chris: Those are the best times we have is seeing our own words posted online and throw it back at us in a copy and paste. Yeah. Very flattering. Anyway, any questions on that topic? Get in touch with us. Thanks again for listening. And we will see you next time on Seller Performance Solutions.. Bye-bye.