Why Me? – When Amazon’s Safety Policy Affects Your Brand
Amazon launched in 1995 with the mission “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company.” And, they continue to hold fast to that credo. If the Amazon ecosphere revolves around the Customer, it stands to reason that it cannot also revolve around the Seller. So, if a customer is unhappy with a product experience, it’s the seller’s responsibility to remedy the situation – or face the consequences. In this case, the consequences are the dreaded Amazon Safety Incident notice and the subsequent suspension of your product listing.
Amazon has been working to stop sellers from hawking problematic products like counterfeits. They also have a safety policy in place to discourage sellers from stocking recalled or shoddy items. However, even the highest-quality brands on the marketplace may get caught in the crosshairs by the Product Safety Team. Their vigilant bots crawl your listings for negative reviews that implicate your product in safety issues. This can lead to an Amazon Safety Incident even if the issue is simply a customer misunderstanding.
When reviews indicate that your product may have created a hazard or caused bodily harm, Amazon will deactivate or even remove your listing over the safety concern. They never want to see signs that a product purchased on their site could be dangerous. From their perspective, the customer should receive your product, be happy as a clam, and go on her merry way.
“The best customer service is if the customer doesn't need to call you, doesn't need to talk to you. It just works.” - Jeff Bezos
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No product nor customer is perfect, and bad reviews – and Safety Incidents – can happen to good sellers. If it happens to you, we want to help you out. We will first go over a few tips to minimize your chances of repeat encounters with the safety policy team. Next, we'll outline the steps to take to reactivate your product listing after an Amazon Safety Incident. And last, we'll offer you a FREE Plan of Action Template to appeal the removal of selling privileges.
Alert! – What Does an Amazon Safety Incident Notice Look Like?
An Amazon Safety Incident in Seller Central will pop up with a red flag notification. And, you will receive an emailed copy of the incident report. The memo from Amazon’s Seller Performance Team will look something like this:
Here is a real example of a listing removal notice in which the ASIN and brand have been anonymized. The quoted content from a customer review includes the words “ouch, hurts, irritated, and allergic reaction,” all within a 20-word phrase. Amazon does not disclose its algorithm for determining whether a product is a safety concern. Yet, it is safe to say that a high concentration of negative health-related keywords or a large volume of poor reviews about the same hazard won’t bode well for a product listing.
That said, there are a number of best practices you can follow as an Amazon Seller to both minimize the risk of Safety Incidents arising and to increase your chances of a quick resolution should an incident come up.
If I Could Turn Back Time – Best Practices BEFORE You Begin
These are preliminary steps you should take as a trusted seller to guarantee you are providing the safest products possible.
- First, make sure that your manufacturing and QA processes are top-notch and documented. Sellers that abide by safety standards and ingredient restrictions for their industry and ensure their suppliers comply are off to a great start.
- Next, it’s important to follow your industry’s labeling requirements. Then, coordinate with your suppliers and get them a copy of all labels before production even begins.
- After production, products should be third-party-lab tested. And, documentation should be made for all necessary tests and agency compliance certifications.
Of course, the steps for quality manufacturing vary from industry to industry. However, the point is to ensure that you can fully stand behind your products. If you come up against any obstacles like an Amazon Safety Incident, you'll be prepared. When you have put in the upfront work to create a great product, it is much easier to show Amazon what you have already done that makes you a great seller.
Quality Assurance practices like those shared in this graphic by supplement company Quantum Wellness bolster your brand against safety complaints. A company confident in its suppliers, ingredients, sources, testing, manufacturing and compliance with regulatory agencies is prepared to get reinstated.
When More is More – Additional Documentation to Include
Additionally, if you have an MSDS sheet, a Certificate of Analysis, or other paperwork that substantiates your product, you’ll want to submit that along with your appeal. The more specific you can get about your compliance, the better. Say you’re selling Howard Restor-A-Finish wood polish. (This one is just an example, and we have no idea if they’ve ever been through an Amazon Safety Incident.)
Imagine you’ve received a product review that mentions a child had an adverse reaction to getting polish in his eye. And, this has led to a Safety Incident that deactivates your listing.
As a wood polish with over 10% petroleum, this product would be regulated by the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970. It would also fall under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). In addition to sending in your Safety Data sheet, it would be helpful if you mention that you comply with the requirements of the safety acts. In this case, you could reference the child-proof cap in compliance with Poison Prevention and the labeling warnings in compliance with Hazardous Substances. From a manufacturing standpoint, you’ve already done everything right to help prevent incidents like this.
Amazon wants to know when you’ve done your due diligence. It legitimizes your brand and reinforces you as a serious business that has its customers’ – and therefore Amazon’s customers’ – best interest at heart.
Keep It Simple, Seller – How to Write a Compelling Plan of Action
When you first receive your Amazon Safety Incident notice, you may feel defensive. Especially if you’ve mostly gotten good reviews and know that you have an awesome product to offer, having your listing deactivated will seem unfair. However, complaining to Amazon, acting confused, or sharing your stream of consciousness with the Seller Performance Team won’t get you anywhere. Don’t comment on the struggles of managing Amazon’s convoluted processes and regulations nor invite emotions into your appeal. Don’t wait too long to compose a response, but do sleep on it if you’re feeling pugnacious.
“Sleep is the best meditation.” –Dalai Lama
When you’re ready to respond, keep your POA concise and focused on the questions asked in the original notice. Write a strong introduction stating the purpose of your communication. In no more than 300-600 words, reply to the memo line by line.
You can even restate some of Amazon’s language as needed. Their investigators are busy, so they only have time to deal with appeals that are done correctly. Furthermore, they won’t give you unlimited chances to get your ASIN reinstated, so use your words wisely. Here’s what to cover in your appeal:
What went wrong
- First, identify and state the cause of the incident Amazon quoted in the performance notice. Do not directly blame a customer nor imply that there is something inherently wrong with your product. If the incident is related to an expiration date, for example, you could propose that the cause is a customer’s dissatisfaction with the time period in which your product would be safe to use.
- Follow up your opening statement with a brief, reasonable explanation of why this issue occurred. If the expiration date of the batch number associated with the quoted incident is 1 year from the date of purchase, describe how this fits with your label. When used as directed, your product will be completely finished with 6 months remaining before the best-by date, for instance.
What you have done/ are doing to fix this
- Next, get into the steps you’ve already taken to resolve the problem. Have you complied with the relevant government agencies? Maintained an otherwise exemplary track record in Seller Central? Have you implemented new manufacturing processes to extend the shelf-life of your product for customers? This is where you show how proactive you are and how seriously you take the notice.
- Finally, outline the steps (preferably in bullet points) that you plan to take to make sure that something like this never happens again. Your corrective actions could be contingent upon your ASIN being reinstated if you plan to add new information to your product listing or they may simply take some time if it involves training personnel. Accept responsibility for your customer satisfaction level and commit to improving. Like Amazon, you’ll stop at nothing to guarantee a positive experience for those who purchase your products. To close your POA, simple thank the team for their time.
That’s (Almost) All, Folks – Final Words and Your FREE POA Template
To recap the article:
- An Amazon Safety Incident can happen to anyone. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad seller, but it does mean you need a thoughtful Plan of Action to get back on Amazon’s nice list.
- Amazon doesn’t reveal its rules for identifying Safety Incidents, but their keyword filters seem to be triggered by language implicating your brand in a customer’s discomfort or pain.
- Maintaining thorough quality assurance and compliance practices in manufacturing can help you make a case against ASIN deactivation.
- Composing a straightforward Plan of Action addressed to the Seller Performance Team will give you your best shot at having your product listing promptly reactivated.
We know that beginning from a blank screen can be intimidating. It also helps to get a head start from a team that has dealt with Safety Incidents before. That’s why we’ve created this FREE Plan of Action template you can edit to send to Amazon, and hopefully, get your listing live again in no time.
Since reinstatement is also contingent upon the actual safety of your product, rather than just the format of your POA, we can’t guarantee this letter will work for your particular case. However, in our experience, this format is very effective for communicating your brand’s value to Amazon and reactivating your ASIN.
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Sign up for occasional Adlucent emails to get your Plan of Action! Then Simply go to File > Make a copy, then edit the template with your Safety Incident information.