Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Evelin Goldin, COO at Seller Care LLC.
International sellers face some common difficulties when they enter the Amazon USA marketplace. Since the Seller Performance Department originated on Amazon.com, Amazon is stricter with enforcing certain policies on the USA platform.
Unfortunately, Amazon expects sellers to stay up to date with their current guidelines across all Amazon marketplaces. As a result, international sellers are often unaware of policies that can result in account suspensions.
This blog will cover the top four types of suspensions for international sellers, and provide tips to prevent them from happening to your account.
ODR (Order Defect Rate) Suspension
ODR suspensions occur when a seller’s ODR percentage exceeds 1%. The ODR percentage is affected by negative feedback, A-Z claims or chargeback claims.
Amazon USA requires that sellers provide customer support in English. As many international sellers want to avoid hiring a new English customer support team, they often attempt to get away with using a translation program to respond to customer inquiries.
Typically, it is obvious when these types of programs are used. Before long, frustrated customers begin complaining to Amazon regarding confusing seller communications, post negative feedback and apply for A-Z and chargeback claims.
Even though it is a bit costlier, we always recommend that international sellers hire fluent English-speaking support to avoid these inevitable issues. Make sure to monitor your metrics daily, address A-Z cases and remove negative feedback when possible.
Pro Tip: Certain types of negative feedback, including that which is 100% product related or which uses inappropriate language, can be removed by contacting Amazon directly, instead of communicating with the buyer. Always check your feedback to see if it qualifies for removal.
As Amazon is a very customer-centric company, it is always best to offer buyers some type of resolution to avoid negative feedback and A-Z claims, even if they are at fault. Once a negative comment is posted, it is usually very time consuming to contact a customer and try to get it taken down. Strict guidelines for feedback removal mean that it is important to carefully follow Amazon Terms of Service (TOS) if you contact a customer to request feedback removal.
You may dispute an A-Z claim after it is filed, but ultimately Amazon makes the final decision regarding the outcome. Even if the claim is decided in your favor and you get your funds returned, the case still counts against your metrics and can result in an ODR suspension.
We recommend working with the customer whenever possible to resolve any issues. It is also very important to hire a customer support team that is fluent in English and train the support team on all current Amazon policies.
LSR (Late Shipment Rate) Suspension
LSR suspensions occur when the late shipment rate exceeds 4%. The LSR percentage increases due to late shipments, unreceived shipments, or because valid tracking information was not entered into the Amazon system.
Typically, international sellers have longer shipping times compared to US-based sellers. Therefore, it is very important to clearly provide all shipping time frames in the item description. Note that as an international seller, you are able to enter in higher shipping fees for expedited services.
We recommend sending a follow-up email after each order is placed, which clearly outlines the estimated time for delivery. This helps prevent any confusion and makes the customer feel more comfortable with the purchase. Communicating with customers from the beginning of the process will reduce the chance for issues down the line.
Once tracking information becomes available, it is very important to enter the tracking information into the Amazon order management system. If you use software to confirm orders, also manually check that the orders are confirmed and shipped on a daily basis. Software in general is susceptible to malfunctions, and even reputable providers experience glitches.
It is important to monitor the following LSR metrics to ensure that each is staying within Amazon Guidelines:
- Late shipment rate
- Invalid tracking rate
- Return dissatisfaction rate
- Negative return rate (rejecting returns)
- Late response rate to return requests
Pro Tip: Send your items to Amazon FBA facilities to reduce your chances for LSR suspensions. Amazon will ship your items to customers, and handle the customer support for all FBA related shipments.
Inauthentic Item or Infringement Suspension
Amazon USA has become more diligent with brand authorization compliance in the past 5 years. If you are located outside of the US and plan on selling a well-known brand, we recommend verifying authorization with your supplier, as well as to confirm whether their distribution agreement allows them to distribute the brand in question over multiple marketplaces. Many brands actively monitor Amazon marketplaces and try to take down unauthorized sellers.
Once an account is suspended for inauthentic complaints, it is difficult to resolve. To err on the side of caution, it is best not to list brands until you are sure that your distributor is authorized.
Recently Amazon has quietly enacted a new policy. If you’ve sent inventory to FBA, and your account gets suspended for inauthentic, infringement, or counterfeit item complaints based on that inventory, Amazon may not allow you to retrieve the inventory from FBA facilities.
Pro Tip: Take time to thoroughly vet all of the brands that you are planning to list on Amazon USA. Be 100% certain that you are sending authorized brands to FBA facilities.
There are multiple violations that can result in an infringement complaint. Most sellers aren’t aware of their violation until a complaint has already been filed by the brand owner.
It is very common for brands to release different versions of the same item in multiple countries. Many international sellers assume that since they have a slightly different version of an item, they can still list their item against the matching title on the Amazon USA marketplace.
What most sellers don’t realize is that they may be infringing on the brands’ intellectual property. It is common for brands to have varied agreements with different countries. Make sure to always list your item by the corresponding UPC code. If your item does not exactly match the product listing, do not list the product.
Often sellers create their own Amazon catalog pages and reference well-known brands in the title. Typically, the brand owner has not authorized the seller to use their brand name on the Amazon catalog page and the listing is infringing on the brand owner’s intellectual property. Sometimes even simply editing an Amazon catalog page can result in an infringement complaint if the brand is incorrectly referenced.
In these types of cases, the brand owner can file a complaint with Amazon USA and request that Amazon take down the listing. Sellers are often confused as to why they are being targeted in these types of cases, and they aren’t sure how to proceed once they get suspended for infringement.
Once an account is suspended for infringement, multiple steps need to be taken to resolve the matter and get the account reinstated. Amazon typically informs sellers that they need to resolve the issue with the complaining party in addition to submitting an effective appeal. Unfortunately, the complaining party might be unresponsive or unwilling to resolve the complaint.
Pro Tip: An infringement suspension needs to be dealt with correctly and effectively. We advise our sellers on communications with the complaining party, inventory management steps, and then prepare an appeal to get the account reinstated. It is best to consult a professional company, such as Sellercare, if your account is suspended. In most cases, significant changes need to be made to seller account logistics, inventory and sourcing before the appeal is even prepared.
You can prevent these four types of suspensions by carefully monitoring all your listings, manually checking inventory daily, thoroughly vetting all new brands and listing each item by the UPC code.
We always remind sellers to closely monitor all notices and warnings and to address them immediately. Solutions need to then be provided to Amazon Seller Performance to notate your account.
Notations can help prevent account suspensions. If your account is already suspended, they can speed up reinstatement after a follow-up appeal plan is sent.
Pro Tip: It is best to consult a professional when you receive any type of notice or warning to get your account notated. We recommend contacting a professional, such as Sellercare, if your account is suspended. Multiple measures usually need to be applied before the appeal is prepared.
Evelin Goldin is the COO at Seller Care LLC. Seller Care LLC provides consulting and reinstatement services to Amazon sellers, and manages hundreds of sellers, including some of the top Amazon sellers worldwide. Seller Care LLC has assisted thousands of sellers with account reinstatement.
She has over 17 years of experience dealing with Amazon. She worked for a company which was one of the first third party sellers on Amazon. She is an expert on Amazon practices, guidelines, policies, and suspensions. She works with sellers on a daily basis to assist with Amazon account notations, suspensions, and business practice optimization. Check out her company (www.sellercare.com).