Amazon Angers Smaller Sellers With Suspensions

Image courtesy of Alan Rappa

The pages of Amazon are full of third-party sellers using the e-tail giant as a storefront, but a number of small-scale sellers say there’s a growing rift between themselves and Amazon over accounts that the sellers claim are being suspended with little notice and few options for recourse.

Bloomberg reports that more and more third-party Amazon sellers have reported that their accounts have been suspended after they received a complaint from a customer or manufacturer.

The sellers, who say they could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales because of the suspensions, believe that Amazon is too quick to suspend businesses and too slow to review appeals to the decision, putting their livelihoods at stake.

One third-party seller tells Bloomberg that he was recently suspended after a customer complaint, despite filing paperwork and evidence that the customers’ claim was unfounded.

“I wasn’t doing anything shady,” the man says. “It seems there are a lot of Amazon sellers who aren’t doing anything wrong and are getting punished. There’s an arbitrary nature to it.”

The sellers say that Amazon’s process appears to be along the lines of guilty-until-proven-innocent, forcing them to look to other marketplaces to sell their goods.

A recent conference in Seattle pitted the sellers against Amazon, with hundreds of vendors and merchants expressing their concern over the suspensions and noting they “live in fear” of being unable to sell on the site.

Another seller says that he built a $2 million business selling health and beauty products on Amazon before his account was suspended this spring.

He hired a lawyer to investigate the issue and eventually filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Still, that hasn’t helped his company, which he says has had to lay off 10 employees. He’s since shifted his inventory toward other sites like eBay.

“It’s been a nightmare,” he says. “They were our partner. You can’t just put your partner out of business.”

The conference also features several lawyers and consulting teams that now aim to assist sellers in fighting suspension or moving on after they’ve been unable to sell.

“Any complaint from any buyer or manufacturer can result in a seller suspension, and their livelihood stops,” a New York attorney who has helped several sellers fight suspension tells Bloomberg. “Mom-and-pop businesses can’t make the mortgage and big businesses can’t make payroll.”

For its part, Amazon believes that any interaction between a customer and seller could spell trouble, Bloomberg reports.

For example, a return or a complaint interfere with Amazon’s view of the seamless shopping experience.

Still, sellers believe the ideal, which nice in theory, is unrealistic. Additionally, it fails to take into consideration a seller’s point of view or the fact that some customers may filed unwarranted complaints. But Amazon has an answer to that, as well.

“We treat sellers like customers,” Erik Fairleigh, an Amazon spokesperson, tells Bloomberg. “The perfect seller experience is seamless self-service that allows the seller to independently run their business. If a seller needs to contact us, we have Seller Support associates available 24 hours a day worldwide, including support for urgent issues with a response in an hour or less. Sellers have available to them at any time many comprehensive tools and services to reach and interact with our Seller Support team.”

Amazon Angers Mom-and-Pop Sellers With ‘Arbitrary’ Suspensions [Bloomberg]