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.
Due to this, international sellers are often unaware of policies which can result in account suspensions. Unfortunately, Amazon expects sellers to stay up to date with all of their current guidelines across all of the Amazon marketplaces. This disconnect ends up resulting in account suspensions for international sellers.
This blog will cover the TOP FOUR types of suspensions for international sellers, and provide tips to prevent these types of suspensions.
1. ODR (Order Defect Rate) Suspension
ODR suspensions occur when the 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. Many international sellers want to avoid hiring a new customer support team to handle Amazon USA based inquiries. In order to bypass this rule, sellers assume that they can get away with using a translation program to respond to customer inquiries. It is typically very obvious when these types of programs are used, and customers begin to complain to Amazon regarding confusing seller communications.
Buyers usually get frustrated and begin to post negative feedback and apply for A-Z and chargeback claims. Even though it is a bit more costly, we always recommend that international sellers hire fluent English speaking support to avoid inevitable issues.
Make sure to monitor your metrics on a daily basis, address A-Z cases, and remove negative feedback when possible.
Pro Tip: Based on the type of negative feedback, you can get it removed by contacting Amazon directly. In this type of case, you don’t need to communicate with the buyer to get the negative feedback issue resolved. If a buyer posts feedback that is 100% product related, or uses inappropriate language, Amazon will remove the feedback on your behalf once they are made aware of it. Always check your feedback to see if it qualifies for removal.
Amazon is a very customer-centric company. Therefore, even if a buyer is at fault, it is always best to offer some type of resolution in order to avoid negative feedback and A-Z claims. Once a negative feedback is posted, it is usually more time consuming to try to get it removed. Amazon has very strict guidelines for feedback removal. It is important to carefully follow Amazon Terms of Service (TOS) if you contact a customer to request feedback removal.
Also, once an A-Z claim is filed, you may dispute the claim, 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.
2. LSR (Late Shipment Rate) Suspension
LSR suspensions occur when the late shipment rate exceeds 4%. The LSR percentage increases due to late shipments, not received shipments, or not entering valid tracking information into the Amazon system.
Typically, international sellers have longer shipping time frames compared to US based sellers. Due to this, it is very important to clearly provide all shipping time frames in the item description. As an international seller, you are able to enter in higher shipping fees for expedited services. Always offer the option to ship the item using an expedited method.
We also recommend sending a follow up email after each order is placed, which clearly outlines the estimated time for delivery. This method will help prevent any confusion, and will make 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 is susceptible to malfunctions, and even reputable software companies experience glitches.
It is also very important to monitor the following LSR metrics to ensure that each metric is staying within Amazon Guidelines:
Late shipment rate
Invalid tracking rate
Return dissatisfaction rate
Negative return rate (rejecting returns)
Late response rate to the 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 Amazon will handle the customer support for all FBA related shipments.
3. Inauthentic Item or Infringement Suspension
Amazon USA has become a lot more diligent with brand authorization compliance within the past 5 years. If you are located outside of the US, and you plan on selling a well-known brand, we recommend verifying authorization with your supplier.
Contact your supplier 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. Therefore, 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.
4. Infringement Suspension
There are multiple violations which 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 doesn’t exactly match the product listing, don’t list the product.
Often sellers create their own Amazon catalog pages, and they 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 owners intellectual property. Sometimes even simply editing an Amazon Catalog page can result in an infringement complaint, if the brand is incorrectly referenced.
In these type of cases, the brand owner will 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 in order to resolve the matter, and get the account reinstated. Amazon typically informs sellers that they need to resolve the complaint with the complaining party in addition to submitting an effective appeal. Unfortunately, the complaining party can be completely unresponsive, or may be unwilling to resolve the complaint.
Pro Tip: It is very important to handle the process correctly and effectively. We advise our sellers on communications with the complaining party, inventory management steps, and we prepare a strong appeal in order to get the account reinstated. It is best to consult a professional such as Sellercare if your account gets 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 TOP FOUR types of suspensions by carefully monitoring all of your listings, manually checking inventory on a daily basis, thoroughly vetting all new brands, and listing each item by the UPC code.
We always remind sellers to closely monitor all notices and warnings. All notices and warnings must be addressed immediately, and solutions need to be provided to Seller Performance to notate your account. These account notations will either prevent account suspensions, or in the case of an account suspension, these notations will speed up reinstatement after a follow up appeal plan is sent.