Welcome Amazon Seller, Now Watch Your Step!

Third-party sellers at the retail giant are subject to suspensions at alarmingly high rates

By Attorney Kenneth Eade

Amazon, the e-tailer behemoth, began by crushing the publishing industry and has become a dominant force in the retail arena which will soon be counting large department stores and grocery chains as its next victim.  But recently the company has become more aggressive with its third-party sellers, due largely to a failure to vet them.  Anyone can become a seller on Amazon, and, as a result, the site has become infamous as an outlet for counterfeit goods, intellectual property violation and unfair business competition.  Suspensions of third-party sellers have become so common now, a cottage industry has arisen to help sellers with appeals of seller account suspensions, made up of ex-Amazon employees and a small number of law firms.  It has become so complicated that it is almost impossible for the average seller to compose one of these plans themselves.  Amazon is aware that the plans of action, which are ghostwritten for sellers, are professionally done and has, accordingly, raised the bar as to what it considers a viable plan, entitling the seller to a second chance.

Amazon considers selling on their site a “privilege.”  This selling privilege can be taken away by them at will.  However, if they give you the opportunity to appeal, you may file a plan of action which identifies the policy violations, the root causes of the policy violations, your resolution of the violations, and a plan to prevent future violations.  If accepted, Amazon’s Seller Performance Team will reinstate a seller account.  Typically, the cases we see fit in several defined categories:

  1.  Inauthentic or counterfeit products: This can be selling knock offs, or the genuine product without sufficient authorization to resell.  Often sellers will buy products from eBay or close-out sales and then wonder why Amazon does not accept their invoices as provenance.  They must buy from a wholesaler authorized by the brand owner, with rights of resale.  And there is another scenario where competitors, trying to knock the competition out will make false counterfeit or inauthentic claims to eliminate their competition. There are two resolutions to these types of complaints:
  2.  Provide the invoices from an authorized wholesale distributor and a plan of action; or
  3.  Permanently delete the offending product, offer a refund to customers, and file a plan of action.

Amazon has formed a dragnet to try to eliminate counterfeiters which has trapped many third-party sellers who actually do have resale rights to genuine products.  These sellers are put through the listing or account suspension process along with the counterfeiters, and the result can put legitimate business out of business.  One client of mine, who holds the sole, exclusive rights to market a national sports brand in the United States, was recently suspended from selling authorized, genuine products on the erroneous grounds that it was selling counterfeits, and the matter had to be escalated to Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, because the Seller Performance division did not accept a legitimate license agreement as proof.

  1.  Intellectual property infringement: These are typically copyright or trademark violations.  These complaints can often be settled by sending an attorney letter to the rights owner, offering to give written assurances not to sell their product and a deletion of the product from the seller’s inventory.
  2.  Poor seller performance: This consists of late shipping, order defects (damaged products either by poor inventory quality control or damaged during shipping), cancelling orders before they are fulfilled.  These matters are solved with quality control programs written in the plan of action that sellers can also follow as a business practice.  A lot of sellers are uneducated or don’t have a command of the English language and have difficulty communicating with customers.  This accounts for many poor selling practices.
  3.  Related accounts: It is against Amazon’s policies to have more than one account and sellers often get suspended because they open another account under a different name or company, with a different computer, or with a relative, etc.  The Amazon database is very good.  It coordinates many pieces of data to match one account to another, such as: ISP address, the same computer, same office or home address, same surname, same geographical location, same banking relationship and related products.

The solution in these cases is either to prove the accounts are not related, which is very difficult, or to admit the violation, promise not to do it again, and propose a plan of action to restore the former suspended account by addressing all the issues in that account.

  1. Listing errors: This occurs when a product does not match the detail page, variations of products are not classified correctly as parent and child products, or images or listings have information that encourages the customer to go off-site.  These can be solved with a listing review and plan of action.
  2.  Review manipulation: Since October 2016, it has been against Amazon’s policies to offer any type of incentive or discount in exchange for, or in the hopes of, a positive review.  Sometimes, sellers use an automatic feedback service which can be the culprit.
  3.  Listing hijacking: This occurs when a seller’s listing is taken over by someone who sells a knockoff product or product that doesn’t match the listing page.  If the client has a registered trademark, an attorney can send a cease and desist letter and file a takedown notice to Amazon and kick the offending competitor off the product listing.  If no trademark protection exists, but the competing product does not match the listed product in every way, including packaging, the offending competitor may often be eliminated from the product listing.

Attorney Kenneth Eade runs a legal practice concentrating on e-commerce and intellectual property issues.  He can be reached at: www.amazonsellers.attorney.

ISIS’ Business Model for Refugees

The United Nations estimates that, from 2011 through 2015, over 220,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war.[1] As of June 2016, there were over 57,000 refugees from Syria living in Greece.[2]

The current exodus into Europe is the largest migration since World War II, fueled by a trafficking business operated by criminal gangs that generates over 1 billion euros per year in revenue.  Outside the EU territory, small criminal and criminal-jihadist groups, often bankrolled with capital they earned from kidnapping, supply their European counterparts with refugees.  Once in Europe, these European traffickers charge thousands of dollars for rides in crowded vans and thousands for being housed in large numbers in camps or caves without adequate facilities.[3]

ISIS makes a business out of human misery.  Since its oil smuggling business has been curtailed by Turkey and Russia, it has relied more on its human trafficking business for more revenue.  This includes sex trafficking[4], trafficking of body organs of living people[5], slave labor[6] and, in the case of refugees, some reports indicate it has wiped out whole towns of people to profit from their displacement, with figures, as of May 2015, put at $323 million.[7]  An estimated 8 million refugees crossed into Europe in 2015[8], and they are still coming, despite efforts to curtail smuggling.[9]

ISIS is also smuggling, among the refugees, its own fighters to Europe, as part of their jihad against the infidels.[10]

ISIS needs money to finance its terrorism operations, house operatives, wage its guerrilla wars against the governments within the territories in which it operates, and provide social services to the residents of its conquered territories.  Smuggling and human trafficking provide lucrative financial opportunities for the finance of such operations.[11]  Terrorists smuggle drugs, arms and people.”[12]

ISIS reportedly has driven Syrians and Iraqis from their homes in a deliberate attempt to increase their control over smuggling routes, and to drive up the numbers of those trying to cross the Mediterranean.[13]

While the Syrian border to Turkey and Bab al Salam  was controlled by ISIS, trafficking into Turkey was rampant, and cheaper for the refugees, who were forced to pay only one tax at the border to the Islamic State, instead of paying several times as they cross territories controlled by different armed groups, criminal gangs or Syrian troops.  In 2015, these taxes to ISIS made up approximately $500,000 per day in revenue.[14] Whereas before, migrants were generally poor and uneducated, today’s refugees come from all walks of life, including the middle class, and traffickers have adapted their fees according to their ability to pay.[15]

Most people in the western world do not realize that the war on terror is the root cause to failed states in the Middle East and this exodus of refugees.  The United States allows Europe to bear the brunt of the huge influx of refugees while continuing policies of “regime change” which only make more opportunity for jihadism to flourish and grow.  This has been exacerbated by a tribal backlash from the west, where racists and xenophobes have risen to political power on platforms of isolationism and protectionism.  As long as this trend continues, we are likely to see even more refugees moving out of the Middle East and North Africa, all to the benefit of the jihad movement.[16]


Kenneth Eade is the bestselling author of the Paladine Political Thriller Series, whose protagonist is a hired assassin whose targets are jihadist terrorists.  The fourth installment of the series, “Unwanted” focuses on the refugee trade and is due to be released on June 30, 2017.

[1] Warren, Rosalyn, Here is the Route Many Refugees Take to Travel from Syria to Germany, Buzzfeed, September 14, 2015

[2] Harris, Mary, How Many Refugees are in Greece, Greek
Reporter, June 14, 2016

[3]  Napoleoni, Loretta, Merchants of Men: How Jihadists and ISIS Turned Kidnapping and Refugee Trafficking Into a Multibillion-Dollar Business

[4] Shelley, Louise, ISIS, Boko Haram and the Growing Role of Human Trafficking in 21st Century Terrorism, The Daily Beast, December 26, 2014

[5] Fars News Agency, ISIS Trafficking Organs of Living People, March 1, 2016.

[6] Hankel, Jenni, ISIS: One of the Many Contributions to Trafficking in Iraq and Syria, Human Trafficking Center Blog

[7] Walt, Vivian, ISIS Makes Fortune From Smuggling Migrants, Says Report, Time, May 13, 2015

[8] Kidnapping, Drug and Refugee Trafficking Behind the Financing of ISIS, Pereis, Sharmani, The Real News Network, December 20, 2016

[9] Walt, Vivian, ISIS Makes Fortune From Smuggling Migrants, Says Report, Time, May 13, 2015

[10] Boyle, Darren, Turkish Police foil ISIS strike on Izmir holiday resort as 400 suspects, including Syrian in contact with people smuggling gangs, are arrested in nationwide dawn raids, Mail Online, February 5, 2017

[11] Walt, Vivian, ISIS Makes Fortune From Smuggling Migrants, Says Report, Time, May 13, 2015

[12] Shelley, Louise, ISIS, Boko Haram and the Growing Role of Human Trafficking in 21st Century Terrorism, The Daily Beast, December 26, 2014

[13] Walt, Vivian, ISIS Makes Fortune From Smuggling Migrants, Says Report, Time, May 13, 2015

[14] Napoleoni, Loretta, Merchants of Men: How Jihadists and ISIS Turned Kidnapping and Refugee Trafficking Into a Multibillion-Dollar Business

[15] Napoleoni, Loretta, Merchants of Men: How Jihadists and ISIS Turned Kidnapping and Refugee Trafficking Into a Multibillion-Dollar Business

[16] Napoleoni, Loretta, Merchants of Men: How Jihadists and ISIS Turned Kidnapping and Refugee Trafficking Into a Multibillion-Dollar Business

 

Amazon Sellers Attorney

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