Amazon is measuring its sellers against yet another yardstick…its Code of Conduct. Never heard of it before? You are not alone. The Code is technically “published” but it sure as heck isn’t promoted to the seller community. You have to search deep into Seller Central Help to find it.
We wouldn’t have gone looking ourselves except we suddenly got several clients who were suspended for Code of Conduct and we thought “what the….?” Amazon did not even tell them what part of the code they violated, it was just a “Code of Conduct Violation.”
Let’s rip off the band-aid here and start by saying if you are suspended for Code of Conduct violation/abuse you are in serious trouble.
Our clients who are banned for Code of Conduct are believed by Amazon to have harmed other sellers by their actions. As we’ve seen it play out so far, that means they filed malicious, fishy or outright fraudulent infringement cases against other sellers. Or they may have filed a real case but not represented the actual brand owner. According to Amazon’s code, these folks used infringement cases as a tactic to get rid of or harm the competition.
Some of them ran side businesses helping other sellers file infringement cases against other sellers. If you currently help sellers file infringement cases and you are not an attorney, you should be very concerned right now.
As a seller who has seen how damaging, expensive and painful bogus infringement cases can be, I applaud Amazon for taking steps to remove bad actors from the platform.
We’ve seen bad actors extort money from our clients (“pay $X and we’ll let Amazon know we’ve resolved the issue”), refuse to talk to our clients, refuse to retract even when the case was resolved and much, much more. I hope Amazon kicks those kind of bad actors off the platform forever.
As an advocate for my clients, however, I would urge Amazon to consider warning sellers before taking such final action. We have one client that we believe to be innocent, for example. They have the right to file the claims that they have filed and they worked with sellers to resolve the issues. Right now, it is unclear who is handling this inside of Amazon. It does not seem to be seller performance which is not good for possible innocent fish caught in the Code of Conduct net.
Some of our clients received letters from high up Amazonians informing them of the violation and that there was no appeal. Others had the appeal button. We should know more in a week or so.
WHAT IS AMAZON’S SELLER CODE OF CONDUCT?
Amazon enables you to reach hundreds of millions of customers. We strive to ensure a fair and trustworthy buyer and seller experience. At Amazon, we expect you to adhere to the code of conduct principles outlined below. Violation of the code of conduct principles may result in the loss of your selling privileges and removal from Amazon Marketplace.
Seller Code Of Conduct Principles:
- Adhere to all applicable laws and abide by all Amazon policies.
- Maintain current account information.
- Never misrepresent yourself.
- Always act in a manner that ensures a trustworthy experience for Amazon customers.
- Never list products that may cause harm to Amazon customers.
- Never engage in any misleading, inappropriate or offensive behavior. This applies to all your activities, including but not limited to:
- Information provided on your account
- Information provided in listings, content or images
- Communication between you and Amazon or you and our customers
- Act fairly at all times. Unfair behavior includes but is not limited to the following:
- Behavior that could be deemed as manipulation or “gaming” of any part of the buying or selling experience
- Actions that could be perceived as manipulating customer reviews, including by directly or indirectly contributing false, misleading or inauthentic content
- Activities that could be perceived as attempting to manipulate Amazon’s search results or sales rankings
- Actions that intentionally damage another seller, their listings or their ratings
I highlighted the ones that are causing sellers problems right now. Most of these show up as regular seller performance issues for review manipulation, buyer-seller platform manipulation, manipulation of sales rank, account verification, linked accounts…etc.
The last point is what we think has gotten our clients for Code of Conduct recently because they were all involved in filing infringement cases against other sellers.
Be aware that Amazon can hold on to your money and your inventory if you violate their code of conduct. Sellers who are selling counterfeit, perpetrating fraud on the platform, not addressing embezzlement, hiding behind someone else to sell…all these sellers forfeit their money and inventory when caught.
HOW DO I AVOID VIOLATING AMAZON’S CODE?
First, be aware of your own practices and possible mistakes. I suggest reading:
- Prohibited Seller Activities and Action: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/200386250
- The Seller Agreement: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/1791/ref=ag_1791_cont_200386250
- Product Detail Page Rules and Style Guide: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/help.html/ref=sc_hp_rel_200390640?ie=UTF8&itemID=200390640&language=en_US and https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/Lite_Inventory_Templates/Selling_on_Amazon_Quick_Start_Style_Guide.pdf
- Restricted Products: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/200164330
- Listing Creation: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/201844590
Yes, that’s a lot of reading but my clients get in trouble every day because they did not realize Amazon was holding them accountable for knowing all that information.
I’M AFRAID I MAY HAVE VIOLATED THE CODE OF CONDUCT – NOW WHAT?
- Stop it.
- Fix – If you’ve not been caught by Amazon yet, take the opportunity to clean up your act. At least that way if Amazon comes to you later upset about something you did, you can show that it was in the past and that you realized the error of your ways.
- Confess – Some issues require Amazon’s help to fix. If you have multiple accounts, for example, or you used UPC codes inappropriately, you’re going to need Amazon to help you fix it. Try to get Seller Support, the Catalog Team or the FBA Team to help you if possible. Confess your mistake and tell Amazon how you plan to fix it with their help. You don’t always have to confess to fix a problem, but if you have to be sure to also say you are sorry.
- Repent – You ARE sorry, right? Say so. Sellers who make mistakes, fix them and apologize are the kind of partner Amazon wants. You don’t have to grovel or wear a hair shirt, but be sincere and have a plan to make things better. Think about how you would want a partner to treat YOU. Do you want them to be defensive and hiding behind a lawyer or do you want them to be direct with you and focused on fixing the problem?
- Repeat – Amazon’s capabilities and rules change often. Try to keep on top of changes. If you miss something or make a mistake, then follow the steps above to get back on track. We are always aware when Amazon is focusing on an issue or has a new rule because our clients get suspended for it. Learn from their mistakes so you don’t have to go through this.
If you get a Code of Conduct violation, they probably won’t tell you what you did, exactly. You will need to take a long hard look at your practices to find the cause. We can help assess your account and your practices before you get in trouble. Just click HERE for more information. It is $500 for an assessment and consultation.
WANT TO MEET IN PERSON?
We are traveling in the US, UK and possibly China and the Philippines this year. We’d love to meet you on the road for a drink or dinner. Please find us at an upcoming meet-up or conference!
ORLANDO – The Un-Conference (it has no name so…) by Kelly Loach and Elisabeth Thompson Feb 23-26. Last call to join Cynthia for brunch at Hash-A-G0-Go on the 26th if you are in town!
NASHVILLE – Catalyst March 6-8. Cynthia will be attending. Come say hi during one of the conference happy hours!
LAS VEGAS – ASD and PROSPER March 18-24. Cynthia and Peter are hosting a special meet and greet for our clients, colleagues and friends on Monday the 20th at the W Resort bar: The Living Room from 5:00-7:00 PM. For those of you going to other parties, join us for your first drink of the night!
ATLANTA – Resonate May 2-3. We will host a meet and greet before or after the conference. Peter, Cynthia and Lissa will all be there. Check back!
FORT LAUDERDALE – May 18-20. Steve Chou’s private label conference Seller’s Summit. Stay tuned for dinner plans while Cynthia is in town.
DENVER – June 2-3. Rocky Mountain Reseller Conference. We had a big turnout last year so we’re meeting at a bigger, better place this year for dinner. Cynthia and Peter will both be there. More to come!
CHICAGO – June 6-9 IRCE. Details TBD. Probably dinner downtown. Cynthia will be attending.
Cynthia Stine is the founder and partner of eGrowth Partners, the industry’s leading firm dedicated to helping Amazon sellers resolve problems with Amazon and grow on the platform. She can be reached at: http://egrowthpartners.com or [email protected] or 972-432-6398.