Picture this: After months of grinding on your Amazon store, you finally have things in a great place. Sales are flowing, packages are going out, reviews are coming in. This is what you’ve been working for! You decide you’ve earned a mini vacation after all those late nights and weekends working, so you get an Airbnb a few hours away, hop in the car, and head for a beautiful weekend in the country. After a few nights of stargazing and mornings sleeping in – and forcing yourself to only login and check on your Amazon account once during the trip – you come back recharged and ready to go.
But then, the nightmare hits. The stars and lazy mornings are gone. You log in on Monday, and cold hard reality reaches out of your inbox and smacks you right in the face. “Your Amazon.com Seller account has been deactivated in accordance with section 3 of Amazon’s Business Solutions Agreement.” How could this be?! You’ve read Amazon’s policies, you haven’t gotten any warning emails. You read on. “You have a separate account which was enforced for violating one of our policies.” What?! No you don’t! You don’t even recognize the name of the account you’re allegedly related to.
Welcome to Amazon’s related account suspensions. Unfortunately, hundreds of Amazon sellers get suspended every day for related account issues. And while the vast majority are familiar with the account Amazon claims they’re related to, sometimes, as with our unlucky seller above, the allegedly related account is a complete mystery. Luckily, regardless of whether you know the other account, there are resources to help you avoid getting that dreaded suspension notice in the first place.
But first, the question every Amazon seller who receives this suspension asks, is why? Why is Amazon punishing you for the actions of another seller? The answer is simple: It’s the only way Amazon can ensure black hat sellers don’t break the rules, get suspended, and simply open another account to start breaking the rules again. By associating accounts and suspending all accounts that are related to one that gets shut down for a violation, Amazon ensures a bad actor can only commit a bad act once.
However, because Amazon knows that black hat sellers are sophisticated, it goes to extreme lengths to find associations, and in doing so, it catches a lot of innocent sellers too. By some accounts, Amazon uses more than 40 pieces of identifying information to find related accounts, from the obvious (email, credit card, business address) to the less obvious (IP address, WiFi network, physical computer) to the obscure (font size, display settings, browser plugins).
So, it might not be surprising when your account is determined related to your spouse’s who uses the same computer and mailing address, or even to your grandma’s whose account you’ve logged into a few times to help her with. But you may be shocked to learn that you can become related to another account by using the same consultant, or even – as we have learned – by visiting the same Airbnb and using their Wi-Fi! And while this may sound terrifying, fear not: there are solutions. Here are 4 tips for avoiding a related account suspension on Amazon – even one you never saw coming.
1. Break up completely, and document it
One of the more common types of related account suspensions are those where the owner of the related account used to have some connection to the suspended account. “Oh yeah, that’s my former business partner’s account,” the seller might say. Or, “ugh, that’s my ex’s.” Oftentimes, the two people used to run an account together, went their separate ways, and one kept running the original account while the other opened a new one. That’s totally fine, as long as both accounts remain in good health. But as soon as one account goes down, the other is going down with it. Unless…
When you do decide to go your separate way from a previous co-owner or co-store manager, sever ties completely. Maybe your college roommate is moving across the country and isn’t going to help with your store anymore. Don’t keep his bank info on the account and arrange to Venmo him each month just because it would be too hard to switch things up. Do the work to take him off! Or maybe you and your significant other are breaking up and he’s moving out and keeping the account. Don’t let him keep using your address even though he doesn’t know where he’s going yet. It may seem like the easiest option at the time, but it will burn you down the road as it has so many other Amazon sellers.
Even harder, when you sever ties completely, make sure to document it. If you sell your account to someone else, make sure you have a formal, notarized bill of sale, termination agreement, or other type of contract. Having that documentation will get you back up and running almost immediately if you do end up getting suspended. And while it might seem like a terrible idea to ask your angry ex to sign an Amazon account separation agreement while he’s hastily packing up his things to move out, are you really going to want to reach out and ask him to do that three months from now?
2. Pick vendors and consultants carefully
Avoiding or handling related account suspensions when you know the other account is relatively straightforward. But a worse type of related account issue is getting linked (as our Airbnb seller did) to an account you don’t even know. And one of the most common culprits for that type of linkage is a third-party vendor or consultant who helped both sellers.
Perhaps you’ve hired a marketing consultant to help you boost your sales. Or maybe you have a customer service company supporting you on your customer questions and concerns. Both are common for larger Amazon sellers and can be smart business practices. But to ensure they don’t trip you up, you want to make sure those third parties are doing things right. Ask any potential third-party companies how they ensure they don’t get you associated with their other clients’ accounts. If they have no idea what you’re talking about, look elsewhere! It’s a fair question that any reputable Amazon support company should be able to answer.
Likewise, even if they give you a satisfactory answer, be on high alert if they ask for your personal account login (rather than being added as an authorized user), or if they add info like their phone number or mailing address to your profile. Each of those tactics might be more effective and efficient ways to help you with your account, but they are extremely risky from a related account suspension perspective. If your consultant, for example, adds his phone number to your account and to another client’s account, those accounts are almost certainly now linked, and as soon as the other account gets suspended for any reason at all, you’re going down too. This is something Appeal Wizards has seen frequently.
3. Use anti-tracking software
While severing all ties from past account relationships and scrutinizing your third-party vendors will help avoid many potential related account issues, neither solves the Airbnb problem above. How do you ensure that you don’t become linked to someone you’ve never met, and have never even shared a consultant with? Enter MirageID.
MirageID’s software takes the uncertainty out of ensuring your account doesn’t get linked to another. It’s like a VPN on steroids. While traditional VPNs protect your IP address from discovery, MirageID creates a layer between your computer and the websites you visit (including Amazon Seller Central) that ensures no identifying information whatsoever is leaked. The software masks all currently used tracking mechanisms, including IP addresses, computer and software identifiers, and behavioral analysis, as well as a host of other advanced tracking techniques. And it constantly adds new protections as technology improves. You can start a free trial today to see how it works.
4. Get account monitoring support
Where Mirage ID can help you ensure you never get linked to strangers, an account monitoring service like that provided by Appeal Wizards can ensure that those you are knowingly linked to won’t bring you down either. Sometimes you choose to have two accounts or to be closely related to another account. Perhaps you and your wife both run Amazon stores (which is allowed by Amazon’s rules) and use the same address and bank account. Maybe you run two stores yourself, one for each of your brick-and-mortar businesses. Those stores are unavoidably linked, so the surest way to make sure one store doesn’t bring the other down is to keep both in good health. And since you have enough responsibility as it is in managing two stores, it’s best to leave your account health to the experts.
Appeal Wizards offers an account monitoring service where its Amazon Seller Central experts watch your account for you, flagging any policy violations or performance concerns that will put your account at risk, and appealing any complaints you receive to ensure your numbers stay solid. Even better, in the unlikely event that your account gets suspended for any type of related account issue, Appeal Wizards can help you appeal the suspension and get back up and running quickly.
As the unfortunate Amazon account owner above learned – his only mistake, after all, was visiting the same Airbnb as another Amazon account owner – getting a related account suspension can feel inevitable…like it’s only a matter of time. But by taking simple steps, and engaging companies like MirageID and Appeal Wizards, you can greatly reduce your risk of suspension, and stay focused on what you do best – selling (from home, or from an Airbnb somewhere far away)!
Note: Amazon does not release all the different ways that two accounts can become linked to each other. In some cases, more than one linkage is required to relate two accounts. It depends on the strength of the link. Same Wi-Fi = weak link. Same credit card number = strong link. Amazon Account Health Support representatives have reported that using the same Wi-Fi, if that is the only linkage, should not link two accounts. However, the Airbnb story shared above is true. While it is therefore likely that there was another link between the two accounts (perhaps both sellers used the same supplier?), we never found it. And the story serves to illustrate the challenges associated with freak related account suspensions.