Working the appeals system with a skilled Amazon consultant creates better results
By: Lesley Hensell
When my Amazon seller account is suspended, should I hire a lawyer? No. An attorney should not be your first call.
It’s an understandable knee-jerk reaction to start searching for a legal eagle. After all, Amazon has all the resources in the world. In other kinds of disputes, attack-dog lawyers are a great option for companies that need a fighter on their side.
But an Amazon suspension – whether for an account or an ASIN – is a very different animal from a lawsuit. Plus, there are several reasons that hiring an attorney early in the process can actually make it less likely you will be successful in your dealings with Amazon.
Legal eagles don’t fly in reinstatement appeals
There are a few simple reasons that attorneys do not make good Amazon appeal writers:
- A key element to any account appeal or ASIN appeal is an admission of guilt. Amazon wants to know what you did wrong. Lawyers are opposed to admitting guilt – even if you were wrong. They are concerned that an admission of wrongdoing would hurt their client in future litigation. But without the admission, reinstatement will almost never happen.
- Lawyers make threats and demands. Instead of going through the appeals process, some attorneys encourage sellers to send demand letters to Amazon’s legal department. This is a tremendous mistake. If you approach Amazon Legal instead of going through standard appeals channels, Amazon is very likely to stop communicating with you. Any future appeals you submit would be completely ignored.
- Attorneys are not e-commerce consultants. For many appeal types, it’s critical that you correct failed business processes. The best appeal writers have experience with business processes and e-commerce. They know how to help your company identify gaps, update your SOPs and explain the results to Amazon.
- Lawyers haven’t worked inside the Amazon machine. Ideally, your appeal should be written by somebody with an in-depth understanding of Amazon’s thinking, SOPs and structure. Teams that include ex-Amazon employees from Seller Performance and Seller Support can provide insight and guidance that a law firm cannot. Plus, Amazon consultants know how to work multiple channels inside of Amazon to solve your problems.
- You cannot sue Amazon. With very limited exceptions, third-party sellers cannot file lawsuits against Amazon. This is part of the Business Solutions Agreement (BSA), which governs the relationship between the two parties.
When should I hire a lawyer?
There are some limited circumstances where third-party sellers should hire an attorney to protect their interests on the platform:
- Intellectual property complaints can be difficult. Oftentimes, an Amazon consulting company like Riverbend can help you appeal these successfully. But in limited circumstances, you may need an attorney to defeat a complaint made against your company. Keep in mind, in these cases the attorney isn’t fighting Amazon on your behalf. Rather, the lawyer communicates with the alleged rights owner to try and convince them to remove their complaint. Or, in some cases, a lawsuit against the alleged rights owner may be necessary. This is particularly true for patent claims.
- Sometimes, mediation is the end game. If the appeals process fails – both internally at Amazon and externally with government and quasi-government agencies – it’s time for mediation. This is allowed under the BSA. Some sellers choose to attack the mediation process themselves or with the help of a consultant. Others with a lot of money at stake may choose to hire an attorney to help with the process.
Lesley is co-founder and co-owner of Riverbend Consulting, where she oversees the firm’s client services team. She leverages two decades as a small business consultant to advise clients on profitability and operational performance. Lesley has been an Amazon seller for almost a decade.