Store suspended now for 8 days and still no reply from Risk Operations team

-Sean-
New Member
6 0 0

Hi all,

2 weeks building a new store built and pushed it live on 15April2024. It was live for 7 days as slowly added more product and built some additional automation. But it was then taken down, no notice, no reason, you're just left there wasting time trying to find out what the issue might be? You quickly find out you have also been locked out from your Shopify Admin panel. And I later noticed that Shopify also posted refund automatically for the Subscription fee pre-paid, as if that makes the damaging processes and suspension lawfully acceptable?

Now, to give praise where it's due, the Shopify front end Support and Technical Teams are focused on providing great service. I think most merchants and partners would agree. And I work in the industry myself, so have some experience to compare.

The name of the internal team managing merchant risk and fraud is called 'Risk Operations' (RO). This team only works 7am-5pm EST Mon-Fri. They are also siloed and there is no direct contact, except by email. The standard Merchant Customer Support Teams are left to field questions from Merchants about why their site and admin account have been suspended. And while they do a great job, they have no access to RO directly. They have no access to data about a suspension case to advise why. They have no visibility of the RO work queue to estimate how long it might be before a merchant might receive contact from the RO team. They are pretty much flying blind.

Like most merchants though, after you've spent maybe 100's of hours building, configuring and testing a new site for release, push it live, and begin investing time and money into driving traffic to your site, without warning, it's taken down and you are locked out, based on what looks like an an automated process, but no notification by email is sent! You also lose access to your Materials (content, metadata and code you have written) that you own and have a legal right to access and no way to extract this out.

I would agree with Kaz Nejatian, Chief Operations Officer, that Shopify should do everything it can to prevent fraud, money laundering, and illegal activity.

This isn't about questioning Shopify's right to prevent illegal activity and mitigate risks, BUT rather the broad automated processes that are suspending sites/accounts automatically without reasonable grounds, without notice, and without any reasonable process or service options for a merchant to request a suspended site to be reviewed within a reasonable time period. And for suspensions that are lower risk, like 'personal identity' check/verification, and/or 'business legal structure' check/verification, and/or 'business plan or marketing plan' questions, then once this information has been provided by a Merchant it is not unreasonable for them to expect that Shopify can provide resource to assess and provide a determination within 1 business day, so a merchant can get on with their business, is it?

If it's taking 8 days or more, as in my case, for Shopify to review and make a determination, and this is creating Merchant complaints, then the process must be flawed and would benefit from a review and some improvement.

So, I don't think it would be unusual, in cases like this, for merchants to lose their patience, even get angry at the front line support team (not that I condone this type of behavior), because of the way these Risk Operations processes, procedures and communication, or lack of, have been designed and do not match the high level of customer service, focus and professionalism that all other Shopify teams seem to strive for.

But a few of you maybe wondering can Shopify legally do this? Well, Shopify's T&C's, Section 14. Term and Termination (3.) which states "...we may suspend or terminate your Account or the Terms of Service for any reason, without notice and at any time (unless otherwise required by law), including if we suspect that you (by conviction, settlement, insurance or escrow investigation, or otherwise) have engaged in fraudulent activity in connection with the use of the Services. Termination of the Terms of Service will be without prejudice to any rights or obligations which arose prior to the date of termination." Wow! There's a lot of debate about 'termination for convenience' clauses in contracts, where the contract is one parties will over another. Where many don't read or understand the terms. Where one party then exercises the right to suspend or terminate a contract without just or reasonable cause, and may avoid the principals of good faith and fair dealing.
Most businesses enter into partnerships, with vendors like Shopify, in good faith and expect to be treated fairly, and not be impacted by a process and automated algorithm that treats them as guilty until proven innocent, or worse yet, be suspended for no reason at all which Shopify can legally do under their terms.

Is this fair?

I don't however think the term is at fault. After all, a business does need some flexibility to adapt to unique circumstances and risks.

 

The problem I see is the processes and automation that is managing these risks is flawed.

Here are some of the issues I see from the outside looking in:

  1. A Merchant Account can't be applied for currently until the site is taken live. Shopify should allow this to occur in Dev, and even make it a requirement X days before going live. If an application is then flagged and requires more info/docs to verify/validate business/person then this can be done without a need to suspend an account.
  2. Shopify really needs to make suspension of an account, the reasons, the processes and timeframes, more transparent to merchants. Your reasons categories for suspension should be detailed in your T&C's and Shopify should develop a matrix for merchants and frontline Support to list the reasons and understand the why, how and when of suspension cases.
  3. Low Risk cases should receive an email with a request for required information, or clarification, or site change to conform, with an advised time frame to provide/comply, to avoid the need for suspension at all. Reasons with a higher risk profile, requiring immediate suspension, should receive an email the minute the account is suspended advising the reason why, requesting any information needed, and what the process and expected time line will be. In my case, I received the email approximately 17 hours later.
  4. Shopify should create a dedicated front line Support Team for Suspension and Termination cases, operating 24/7, with greater access to case queue visibility, direct access to case investigators/managers, and in lower risk cases (like identity and business legal structure verification) have the authority to quickly verify and resume the Services for a merchant. The one-size-fits-all suspension process atm is causing unbearable wait times for lower risk suspension cases.

Why have I given this so much thought?
Well, to be blunt, Shopify have forcefully suspended my business, forcing me to wait for them, so I've had some time to think about it.
Originally told by Shopify Support to expect to have a reply from the Risk Operations Team within 24-48 hrs.
When that was reached, it changed to 48-72 hrs.
Then after 4 days "...well, seen it take up to 7 days after information has been received from the Merchant".
So, why has the time estimate changed? Well, front-line Support don't have any visibility of a case once escalated to Risk Operations, creating more confusion, which leads to more frustration.

 

Now at 8 days, no reply, and still waiting.


Shopify, I'd really like to receive a response to my case please and have the suspension lifted.

Replies 3 (3)

SealSubs-Roan
Excursionist
190 12 12

Hi @-Sean- 

 

I understand where your frustration is coming from. I understand that the responses that you are receiving from Shopify advisors are not ideal but, I highly suggest that you keep an open communication with them because, they can follow up your case with the escalated team and communicate with them internally.

 

The advisors told you that the response time is between 24 to 72 hours though, it still depends on the queue that the department are getting so, it can be longer than that. What I am sure of, is that they are looking into every merchant's case as fast as they can. 

Roan
Please let me know if it works by marking it as a solution!
Seal Subscriptions App, a subscription app for Shopify, with glowing user testimonials and a free plan.
-Sean-
New Member
6 0 0

Hey @SealSubs-Roan, thanks for your feedback. I hear what you're saying, but I've gone through the 24-72 hours expected delay, then 5 days, then 7, and I'm now at 9.5 days. Communication lines are and have always been open. One of the problems though has been the lack of communication from Shopify. But I think that a fair maximum time period for a case like this to be resolved or finalised was definitely passed at the 5 day mark. MS suspensions suggested 24-48 hrs to resolution. Google service suspensions suggested 3-5 days.
But how long do you wait? It's a valid question I think.
Yes, there are fraudulent and money laundering risks that require immediate suspension, I don't dispute that, but it seems there are many other lower risk merchants getting caught in the net (like me), likely clogging the queue, left there for a week or more, before being thrown back in.
So, how long is a reasonable time to wait?

At what point is the delay inexcusable?

I also have clients who I advise what marketing technology they should use. Can I really advise them that Shopify is a dependable choice?

I'd love to be able to say that Shopify are doing everything they can to resolve this. But right now, I can't say that I'm seeing it.

-Sean-
New Member
6 0 0

Just an update to my situation: After waiting 14.5 days, I finally received a short email from the Risk Ops Team advising:

Hello, 

This email is to inform you that after reviewing the information provided to us [14 days ago], we have reinstated your account. 
Please note that you may need to select a paid subscription plan for your store when logging in.

Thank you for your patience in this matter.

Shopify Merchant Trust Team

There was no explanation as to why a response took more than 14 days, after being escalated by customer support more than 3 times.

No apology for the unreasonable delay. Just a rather presumptuous "Thank you for your patience...".

No apology for not allowing access to my content or metadata during that period (which conflicts with Shopify's terms).

No explanation for why the account even needed to be suspended in the first place?

Wow!

So, I initiated a complaint through the Billing Team. After some direct messaging, the bottom line was an offer of one free month of my service plan 

Sean_0-1716869027034.png

 

Seriously!

My site is suspended for 14.5 days, for no specific reason, other than a request to provide some business registration/address/marketing information, most of which is publicly available through government sources, or visible in the site they suspended, and they then took 14+ days to action a review of that information without any update or communication throughout that period. My loss is estimated conservatively at over $10K (I know other merchants have lost a lot more). And it's not the fact that Shopify's T&C's, section 14.3, states that they can "...suspend or terminate your Account..for any reason, without notice and at any time..." but rather, if they unsuspend an account after a review, they are in effect admitting that the reason they suspended the account in the first place is unproven/invalid and the suspension could have been avoided if they just requested the additional information, and reviewed it, before making a decision to suspend/terminate.

BUT OVER 2 weeks to review information related to a suspension is unreasonable by any standard. These processes are causing damage to merchant operations, and Shopify still thinks it is professionally acceptable behavior to suspend accounts without warning or notice, take longer than 2 weeks to review, deny access to your content/metadata, and then claim because 14.3 exists in their terms, that the behavior is acceptable.

Wake up, and listen to your customers, please.