Hundreds of Amazon sellers have complained that the online marketplace is withholding their money.
Amazon said it emailed sellers about a ‘delivery date based reserve’ which holds some money in case of refunds.
But some sellers have written to their MPs saying they cannot get the cash needed to run their businesses.
Vinyl and CD seller Mario told the BBC Amazon is holding £5,000 leaving him “shaken and panicked” and fearing he can no longer continue trading.
He has been selling music on Amazon for seven years, but said he can no longer afford to renew his stock, or pay for postage to fulfil his current orders.
Mario, whose money was frozen on 3 August, said he is unable to withdraw any for maintaining daily operations.
“I’m losing my company,” he said. “I’ve never had a problem with my payments before. How can I feed my family, pay my bills?”
He told the BBC when he emailed Amazon Sellers’ customer services, he received a “generic, stock” message that did not inform him about the specifics of his case.
He showed the BBC posts on the Amazon Sellers forum, where there are complaints from hundreds of other sellers who have had their money withheld since 3 August.
Daniel Moore, 48, has a business called Ink Jungle that sells ink cartridges. He has £170,000 in reserve – and it is increasing by £40,000 a day, he said.
“The value they will hold from us is disproportionately high versus the potential refunds processed by customer returns or non-delivery,” he said.
Daniel uses Fulfilled By Amazon to ship some of his orders, and says he has a 0% defect rate on deliveries, and just 0.13% for returns – but that his money is still being withheld.
Fulfilled By Amazon is a system where sellers use Amazon’s warehouse to stock their goods, and Amazon then ships orders to customers on behalf of the sellers from that warehouse.
Daniel said the withheld funds meant he will be unable to pay his £191,000 VAT bill, which is due this week.
His company turns over about £16m on Amazon and employs more than 20 staff.
Daniel says the reserve has left him unable to buy stock and unable to pay bills.
He has contacted his local MP and the Financial Conduct Authority.
Michelle, 32, from Cheltenham has been selling pet products for more than 10 years on Amazon. She told the BBC it is holding £16,000 of her takings.
She took out a loan from Amazon Lending to help keep her business running during the time her money was held, but the loan money of £18,000 is also locked and is inaccessible – even though Amazon said in the loan confirmation email that the funds would be available straight away.
She was told by Amazon that she will not be able to access any of that money for at least two weeks.
“Obviously when we were used to disbursing payments into our bank account daily, those two weeks are very challenging indeed for the cash flow of the business.
“We employ 13 members of staff and this is crippling our business”, she said.
Michelle made several attempts to contact Amazon but says she keeps being told to “wait”.
“This whole delivery based reserve is meant to hold funds relating to orders being delivered, then an additional seven days, but they are holding everything including our approved loan,” Michelle added.
The BBC has seen several letters sent from sellers to MPs complaining about Amazon’s reserve system.
Conservative MP for Bracknell James Sunderland’s office confirmed that it was looking in to Amazon’s reserve system and that the issue has been raised to Ministers, and that the Treasury was aware.
Amazon said the policy was introduced to non-EU and non-UK countries in 2016, and implemented in the EU and UK on 3rd August.
The Small Business Commissioner’s office said many sellers reported that they were being offered loans by Amazon with interest of around 14% to help them manage cash flow while they wait for funds to come through.
“They say they are being lent their own money at high interest, but for some the alternative is insolvency. We need big firms to understand that delaying small payments to small firms can have a massive negative impact and everyone loses,” commissioner Liz Barclay said.
She added that that with bank processing times, many sellers are having to wait for around 14 days for their money and have a 2-week window in which, “as a result of this change, they have no income”.
The news comes after Etsy began withholding 75% of sellers funds for around 45 days. The company reduced the amount after hundreds of sellers complained of it affecting their business.
Many Amazon sellers said that the email from Amazon was not clear – and in many cases was automatically sent to the junk folder in their email.
Many sellers said the email implied that their ability to withdraw daily amounts would not be restricted – when in practice, it is.
An Amazon spokesperson said: “The policy to pay sellers seven days after delivery date was introduced in August 2016 for new selling partners.
“This process will standardise this policy for European sellers to ensure they have sufficient funds to cover any financial obligations, like product returns or customer claims.
“This change does not impact the vast majority of selling partners.
“We recognise it may lead to a one-time cash flow disruption which is why we notified affected selling partners three months in advance to help them prepare for this change.”