Trust and Safety teams work to make marketplaces secure environments where people are confident in doing business. A necessary part of that job is disciplining users who violate a marketplace’s rules.
So as not to scare away honest users from a marketplace, Trust and Safety divisions will often issue only warnings or light account restrictions to users who commit minor rules violations. However, some users may ignore these deterrents and repeatedly abuse the marketplace. Others may commit severe infractions that put the safety of other users, or the integrity of the entire marketplace, at risk. In these cases, account suspension may be necessary.
Here, we’ll go over what account suspensions are, including why marketplaces may issue them. We’ll also discuss activities on specific types of marketplaces that may result in account suspensions. Finally, we’ll outline some best practices for how marketplaces should incorporate account suspension rules into their Trust and Safety policy.
Account suspension is when a marketplace disables access to a user’s account on the platform and blocks further activity from that account. A suspension is usually issued when a user commits a serious violation of a marketplace’s rules, or sometimes when they repeatedly commit minor violations.
Suspensions can be temporary or permanent depending on the type, severity, and/or frequency of violations a user commits. Many marketplaces also have account suspension appeal processes, which allow users to legitimately challenge suspensions they feel were unwarranted.
Generally, suspension of an account on a marketplace is reserved for cases where a user commits a fairly severe rules violation. However, it can also be issued to users who ignore warnings and minor account restrictions to continually abuse a marketplace’s rules.
So what is a reason for account suspension? Some common ones on marketplaces include:
Certain types of marketplaces can have other criteria for suspending accounts, depending on the nature of the marketplace. Here are a few real-life examples to illustrate how different marketplaces and platforms manage suspensions.
Marketplaces that involve users exchanging goods and services with each other can suspend users for dishonest or negligent business practices. For example, sellers can be suspended for failing to:
Many modern video game consoles have online marketplace functionality built into them. However, it is possible for users to have their accounts on these marketplaces suspended.
An example is a PlayStation Network suspension for account debt. This happens when a user purchases a game, item, or service from PlayStation Network, but then requests a chargeback on the purchase when they are not legally entitled to one. In this case, PlayStation will suspend the associated account until the debt is repaid.
Suspensions may also be handed down for actions such as:
Many video games with online multiplayer capabilities and marketplace functions have their own rules governing account suspensions. For instance, Pokemon GO players can be suspended for cheating through:
Suspensions can also result from actions that exploit the marketplace functions of a game. These include:
Suspensions are fairly serious punishments that are usually issued for severe or repeated marketplace rules violations. But they may also be handed out in error, or to protect a legitimate user’s account from being hijacked by a bad actor to use for further violations.
In that light, here are some tips for how marketplace Trust and Safety teams should manage suspending users.
Include as part of the marketplace’s guidelines a fairly complete (but not overly exhaustive) list of reasons why an account may be suspended. Specify (as best as possible) when suspensions will be temporary or permanent, as well as how long temporary suspensions will last.
Also, be sure to list situations in which a user’s account may be suspended without them necessarily doing anything wrong. Usually, this will include protecting their account from a potential hack or takeover.
Some marketplaces have systems of escalating consequences – of which suspension is usually one – for repeated rules violations. For example, a Youtube account suspension usually occurs after three incidents of rules violations within a given time period. This results in a temporary suspension the first time; the second time, the suspension may be permanent.
Again, if using such a setup, clearly outline how it works in the marketplace’s Trust and Safety guidelines. Be sure to include stipulations that particularly egregious rules violations may have their consequences immediately escalated to suspensions, even with a lack of prior infractions.
If a Trust and Safety team is forced to suspend a user’s account, it should send an account suspension notice to that user. The notice should include the rules violation(s) the user was suspended for (as specific as possible), whether the suspension is temporary or permanent, and how long the suspension will likely last (if not permanently).
This is especially important for incidents where the suspended user is not at fault, such as if a Trust and Safety team suspects the user’s account has been compromised.
Trust and Safety moderators – whether human or software – can occasionally make inconsistent judgments. That’s why marketplaces should have mechanisms through which a user can appeal an account suspension.
A marketplace should make its appeal mechanism reasonably accessible. It should clearly explain the appeal policies, where to find them, and how to enact them. The mechanism for appeal should also outline what’s involved in the appeal process, and how long it typically takes.
Trust and Safety teams should also set and explain conditions on when appeals can be made. For example, appeals can only be made a certain number of times within a specified timeframe. Or suspensions issued for certain severe rules violations may not be eligible for appeals. This helps to keep serious or repeat offenders from continually trying to appeal suspensions when they have no legitimate reason to.
Hopefully, a Trust and Safety team will rarely need to suspend accounts on a marketplace. But this is a necessary process for maintaining marketplace security and confidence by getting rid of bad actors who knowingly break the rules.
Still, it’s something that should be handled with care to avoid unintentionally scaring legitimate users away – both current and future. That’s why it’s helpful to have automated tools to monitor for suspendable offenses, as well as to review cases to determine if suspensions are warranted.
Unit21 has solutions for both – book a demo with us to see how they work in action.