False Positives Create Endless ASIN Suspensions at Amazon
Few things are more frustrating than a “restricted products” ASIN suspension on Amazon – when it’s based on bad data.
Yet that’s what Amazon sellers face every day when their innocent products are flagged and removed from the platform.
Why? Amazon wrongfully believes that these everyday goods are pesticides, adult products, bear false medical claims, and more.
Unfortunately, Amazon employees have been trained to believe that their internal systems are infallible. This creates a terrible loop making it extremely difficult for sellers to get their ASINs reinstated.
What Is a Restricted Products ASIN Suspension?
Amazon dubs an ASIN a “restricted product” if it violates Amazon’s rules for sale. Oftentimes, Amazon’s rules for restricted products are inspired by or mirror existing law – whether federal, state or local.
Examples of the reasons Amazon suspends a “restricted product” include:
- Selling a regulated medical device
- Making medical claims
Listing an adult product for sale on Amazon.com (as opposed to listing the product on Amazon’s adult-oriented site)
- Selling a product that is a pesticide but not registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Listing tobacco or illegal drugs or paraphernalia
- Offering prohibited weapons for sale
- Selling live animals, insects, fur and feathers of endangered species, animal parts and ivory
- Selling explosives, strong magnets, lawn darts and similarly dangerous products
Obviously, sellers try to sell products that violate the above rules all the time. Some even get in hot water with Seller Performance for trying to circumvent the rules and hide their listings.
Amazon relies on artificial intelligence (AI) to scour the catalog and find listings that are in violation of the rules. But increasingly, the AI seems to have removed all intelligence from the enforcement process.
What Does a False Positive Look Like?
A false positive occurs when Amazon’s bots spy a forbidden word on a listing detail page. That generated a warning or an ASIN suspension. While a Seller Performance investigator is supposed to spot and stop false positives from becoming suspensions, that is not happening. Either investigators are just automatically approving these suggested ASIN suspensions, or they are afraid to overrule the AI.
Why? Because Amazon investigators have been trained to believe their AI is flawless.
How do we know there are, indeed, false positives? Here are just a few egregious examples we’ve seen recently among clients of Riverbend Consulting:
- Inaccurate “adult” flag: A children’s blanket printed with stars, baby wipes, a walking cane
- Inaccurate pesticides suspension: An owl statue, a pair of shoes, a crib mattress, pliers, a magnet that says, “Bee Kind,” a water-repellant zipper, an immune support supplement
Why Is the Artificial Intelligence Confused?
There are a few reasons why ASINs are wrongly suspended as Restricted Products:
- Black Hat Attacks. Other sellers insert prohibited keywords or flip a listing to having the “adult” flag.
- Innocent Mistakes. Sellers word their listings in a way that might lead Seller Performance – or the AI – to believe they are selling a prohibited product.
- Seller Keyword Stuffing. Sellers – or their competitors – stuff as many keywords as possible into the front end or back end of a listing.
- Bad Data Merges. Amazon merges multiple listing detail pages together, and the wrong details are included on the ASIN.
- Drop-shipping. Some sellers upload entire catalogs of goods to their Amazon store without reviewing to ensure they are not selling restricted products. Not to mention the chance of falling victim to a drop-shipping scam, which could also lead to account closure. Follow the link to read more about the various drop-shipping scams out there.
What’s a Seller To Do?
If your ASIN is flagged as a “restricted product,” here are a few steps to help get it reinstated:
- Carefully review the notice from Amazon. Make sure you understand exactly what their concern is.
- Review your listing detail page from top to bottom, including the backend keywords and photos. Figure out exactly which terms or claims have been picked up by Amazon’s AI.
- Make needed edits to the listing detail page. This might require contacts with Seller Support to get it done timely.
- Appeal the ASIN suspension with a convincing Plan of Action. Explain why your ASIN was flagged, why that was incorrect, and what you’ve done to eliminate any confusion for Amazon or for the buyer. You can do this step on your own or enlist our ASIN suspension experts to help you through this process.
Are you completely innocent? Explain to Amazon the relevant policy and how you are complying with it.
Expect to Escalate
As mentioned above, Amazon employees have been trained to believe their AI is accurate. Because of this, they are reluctant to overturn an ASIN suspension based on their technology. This is especially true for restricted products that could be banned for legal reasons or because they may hurt buyers.
That doesn’t mean their decision is correct – It just means their decision is more difficult to appeal. Expect to escalate your appeal to executives or other groups inside of Amazon to solve the issue.
Have a stuck ASIN that’s wrongly designated as a restricted product? Our team here at Riverbend Consulting can help! Just go to our ASIN suspension appeals page, fill out the form, and we’ll get back to as quickly as we can. From there, all you’ll have to do is provide us with some information and we’ll take care of the rest of the work! We’ll have your account reinstated and back in your hands in a flash!
Lesley is co-founder and co-owner of Riverbend Consulting, where she oversees the firm’s client services team. She has personally helped hundreds of third-party sellers get their accounts and ASINs back up and running. Lesley leverages two decades as a small business consultant to advise clients on profitability and operational performance. She has been an Amazon seller for almost a decade, thanks to her boys (21 and 15) who do most of the heavy lifting.
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