A hashtag is going around Twitter #amazonclosed, which became popular in March, and is often used by Amazon customers who claim their account was closed by Amazon without warning.
On Facebook, members of a 5,000+ strong group of Amazon customers are making similar claims. The account closures apparently impact a wide range of Amazon customers from occasional buyers to Prime members.
In many cases, customers are claiming their accounts were closed without notice and even when contacting Amazon, they received little help to solve the problem.
The closures also appear to have caught out some students who use Audible for their class work.
According to a story posted on EdSurge, Zachary Schulweis, a student at Rockland Community College in New York claims he lost access to Amazon for about one week.
In his case, the company emailed him stating “We detected unusual activity associated with items previously purchased on your account. As a result, we had deactivated your account while we conducted a deeper investigation.”
Schulweis account was restored and he suspects the reason for the temporary closure was that he left incentivized (paid) reviews before Amazon banned the practice in 2016.
Maybe some of these older, and at that time allowed, reviews got caught up in the algorithm that Amazon uses to flag policy violations.
EdSurge reached out to Amazon and received the following comment from the company:
“Amazon has taken action against bad actors and those who have violated our community rules. If any customers believe their account has been closed in error, we encourage them to contact us directly so we can review their account and take appropriate action.”
Some users in the Facebook group have also acknowledged they left incentivized reviews, which may explain the reason why Amazon closed their accounts.
Excessive Returns – Another Factor?
In a Wall Street Journal story posted Tuesday, the publication suggests there could be another reason why Amazon has banned some buyers.
The WSJ claims it had contact with several Amazon customers who allege the company told them their accounts were closed because they returned too many items.
Supposedly, the company emailed those buyers and told them they exceeded a certain number of returns and that is the reason the company closed the account.
Physical retailers have long enlisted return tracking companies such as Appriss Retail, formerly known as The Retail Equation, to analyze a customer’s return pattern.
Typically, a customer with excessive returns at a physical retailer will be banned for a period of time of returning goods.
It now appears Amazon may be joining physical retailers in combating excessive returns using an internal process.
But unlike their physical counterparts, Amazon is closing accounts to keep customers from buying items in the first place.
It is a bit ironic that a monster that Amazon partially created, easy eCommerce returns, is coming back to bite them as it already has other retailers.
And the company still offers Prime Wardrobe, which is a try before you buy shopping experience and “invites” returns.
eBay Forces New Return Policies
For sellers, the news that Amazon may finally be cracking down on abusive returns comes when eBay is telling its sellers it must now accept more returns and is further automating the process.
Just today, eBay released a new Seller Update reminding sellers of these changes and how the marketplace will even change listings if sellers do not comply.
Certainly, sellers on Amazon who have been affected by review fraud and excessive returns will see banning buyers who are abusing Amazon policies as good news.
One could argue that Amazon may need to be more forthcoming to buyers as it does appear many are not receiving much information from Amazon.
But with eBay now enforcing more liberal return policies to sellers, will they also look at buyer abuses? Or what about paid product reviews on their new catalog pages?
It will be interesting to see how eBay may approach both of these problems. But if these problems reached a point when Amazon felt it had no choice but to start banning customers, will eBay do the same?
What do you think about this apparent crackdown by Amazon on fake reviews and excessive returns? Head over to our Facebook Discussion Group or use the comments section below.