Hashemian Blog
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Amazon Associates Account Suspension

by @ 8:29 pm
Filed under: hacking,marketing,web — Tags: , , ,

The email came at night, but it wasn't completely unexpected. In a terse missive, Amazon accused me of violating their Terms of Service (TOS) and terminated my account. Reasons given: copying pages and links to other sites and search engines. In other words spamming other sites with specific Amazon links tagged with my id to collect commissions.

I have operated my two sites (hashemian.com and padfly.com) for over a decade with a couple of different associate and affiliate programs. I probably have too many ads on my pages, but I have been careful to stay on the ethical and moral side of the fence. Fairness and respect to my visitors have always trumped making a quick buck or a large sum for that matter. Good reputation is worth way more to me than money.

I have never copied a page nor parts nor links containing my Amazon account data anywhere outside of my own sites - never, not even once. There have also been no schemes to push any links onto search engines. My sites are crawled and pages are indexed normally by search engines. But Amazon simply accused me of being unethical and took punitive steps.

So how did I know that I'd be receiving a termination notice from Amazon at some point? This past Christmas season there was a marked increase in sales and therefore higher commissions in my Amazon account. I attributed that to the season, luck and some validation after years of being online. As months rolled on, the sales continued to stay positive and I became certain that Amazon would not be pleased and they would eventually pull the plug.

For a long time I have suspected that Amazon disapproves of any associate who wields too much selling power. Such an associate can materially influence sales numbers and that's not welcome news to Amazon. So Amazon has created a clever TOS for its associates program that allows them to terminate anyone at anytime. Why even have a TOS when the program is free? That protects Amazon against possible lawsuits such as those for discriminatory practices. The TOS rules are nitpicky enough that at no time any of their associates are in complete compliance. One link appearing on another site is enough to violate the TOS. I'm certain that I was in violation since day one. But it took them 6 years to suspend my account.

As long as the associates make a paltry earnings from the program, Amazon is willing to let the violations slide. But when an associate surpasses certain figures, then a quick notice of TOS violation is given and the associate is terminated. No one but Amazon knows what those figures are and how they are applied, but they do exist and they are applied. And that's how I was terminated from Amazon associates.

The most damaging part of the notice to me was the accusation of being unethical, just a simple and cold assault on my reputation. Now, I realize that no one cares about my situation and people would just dismiss this as a another scammer's rant. I don't mind. People don't know me, so why should they believe my story?

But people should at least believe this part. As a part of my account termination, Amazon also seized all commissions earned. They would also continue to keep future commissions from any sales related to my links. It's not much money, but if these were indeed ill-gotten gains, then a responsible company and an ethical corporate citizen would not keep them nor would they keep any profits from the sales. They would at the least donate them to a good cause. A charity for fighting hunger and poverty, educational programs for under-privileged children, or organizations combating diseases such as cancer. Instead, Amazon simply and silently pockets the money for itself.

If cops busted a suspected drug dealer, is it right for them to kill him and pocket whatever money they found on him? Is it OK if they sold the rest of his stash on the streets and kept the profits? It's an exaggerated comparison, but I don't think that would be right. i don't know, maybe I have a warped perception of ethics.

8 Comments »

  1. I just suffered the same treatment at the hands of Amazon... and I'm wondering if there are a lot more of us with the same story to tell.

    I'd been an Amazon Associate for around two years, and until recently had never earned more than about $30/month in commissions. Earlier this year, I found a niche that began producing more than $1,000 a month in commissions.

    After two good months, I got the dreaded email, accusing me of bidding on proprietary words. They confiscated $1,200 owed to me. The truth is that I never violated the Terms of Service. Despite numerous protests, including one to Jeff Bezos (which was answered by an underling in customer service), Amazon refused to consider refunding the money that I had legitimately earned.

    I think you are absolutely correct about Amazon's modus operandi, and I'm going to take a closer look in an effort to confirm our suspicions.

    Comment by John — June 25, 2010 @ 12:03 pm

  2. Hey, any particular luck with getting this solved? I'm currently in a similar situation with Amazon and any helping tips would be great. A reply via email would be much appreciated

    Comment by Mike — August 7, 2010 @ 5:11 am

  3. nope, i just replied to their original email and then moved on knowing that they would never respond.

    by now, i've forgotten about them, but refuse to ever order anything from amazon that i can buy elsewhere. if i can deprive them from my couple of bucks, why not?

    good luck

    Comment by robert — August 7, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

  4. same at my end. they totally ignoring any try to get in touch with them. im not scamming, spamming or doing any other bad stuff. even if, they dont provide a single piece of proof of violation or even one warning before they close the account. but in my case its about several 10k $ in commissions. seems that the inventors of affiliate marketing turn into the nazi's of affiliate marketing. im puking of so much arrogance. my lawyer will kick their butts...

    Comment by search knight — December 28, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

  5. Amazon terminated my account about 4 years ago, right after the busy Christmas season, without any notice or any TOS termination email.
    Since I am no longer able to log in to my account, I have no way of knowing exactly how much money Amazon owes me. But I estimate about $4000 because I was close to the highest commission tier, and I recall seeing over $150,000 in sales during that quarter.
    I have called the associates dept on numerous occasions only to be told that no one knows why my account was closed and I needed to talk to the associates program manager. Of course that person was never available and never returned any of my calls and messages.
    Based on my experience with Amazon, it is my opinion that they are just lowly thieves disguised as a legitimate business.

    Comment by Jerry — August 31, 2011 @ 1:27 am

  6. nothing we can do about this other than personal boycotting.

    at least with google when they suspend an adsense account they claim to give the funds back to the original advertisers. amazon just pockets the profits and walks away whistling.

    i use amazon's site for research and then buy from ebay or walmart or elsewhere. the extra bit of effort is worth the satisfaction of never contributing a penny to amazon.

    Comment by robert — August 31, 2011 @ 10:14 am

  7. Happend the same to me in Christmas season: after 3 years they banned me with no reason. After that I think about and there was an explanation: I was first in Google for Christmas keys - 400k visits monthly - an lots of sales.

    Comment by Mark — December 24, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

  8. We are Amazon Sellers Lawyer. We help sellers who have been suspended, banned, have IP complaints etc. Please check us out at http://www.amazonsellerslawyer.com. Id like to see if we can add our lead attorney as a speaker a show, on a podcast, or if you would like to publish one of our available articles.

    Thanks,
    Lisa

    Comment by Lisa — August 24, 2016 @ 12:48 pm

 

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