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How to Sell in Amazon's Restricted Categories

  • Ecommerce
  • July 18, 2016 | Bethany McDonald

Two million third-party sellers can’t be wrong -- Amazon is one of the best ecommerce platforms on which to buy and sell products in the world. However, with great exposure and access to millions of customers come a lot of rules and regulations.

Several such rules involve selling in restricted categories that require approval from Amazon.

Open Categories

There are more than 20 categories that are completely open for selling on Amazon. These categories include Books, Camera and Photo, Home and Garden, Musical Instruments, Office Products, and Tools and Home Improvement.

Products in these categories can be listed without any specific permission from Amazon, although basic selling guidelines, including photos and descriptions, must still be followed. In order to sell in these categories, you must sign up as either an individual or professional seller.

As an individual seller, there is no monthly fee; however, you can only sell up to 40 items per month. Professional sellers pay a $39.99 monthly premium with no monthly sales restrictions.

Amazon Category Restrictions

Many of the most desirable categories on Amazon, including Clothing and Accessories, Beauty, Jewelry, Grocery, and Health and Personal Care, maintain selling restrictions or require prior approval.

This allows Amazon to better monitor the quality of these products and ensure that products listed in these categories meet customer standards. For sellers, it also means that there is less competition and greater visibility in order to market and sell their products.

Getting Approval to Sell in Restricted Categories

The first step of gaining approval to sell in restricted categories is becoming a professional seller, as only Amazon sellers that pay the monthly professional premium are allowed access. Once you’re a professional seller, you must also meet certain requirements, which are different for each category.

Requirements can range from providing invoices from suppliers and photos of the merchandise to uploading Excel files of your products (known as “flat files”) and answering basic questions about your business plans.

In addition to restricting selling activities in certain categories, Amazon also monitors and restricts the sales of certain brands. Although Amazon does not maintain an official list, these brands include those that are vulnerable to counterfeiting, including popular, desirable, and well-known brands such as Apple, Burberry, Coach, Chanel, Lancôme, and Sony. Amazon may ask sellers to submit these products for approval before listing.

Prohibited Listings

There are several types of listings that Amazon prohibits, including illegal, prescription, counterfeit, unsafe, or otherwise restricted products. It is the seller’s responsibility to understand and follow Amazon’s prohibited listing rules.

Permitted hazardous items include rechargeable batteries, empty portable gas cans, and pesticides that comply with government regulations. Prohibited hazardous items include any explosives, such as black powder or firecrackers, bacteria cultures, used oil, and products containing mercury.

Permitted listings of cosmetics and skin/hair care products include newly packaged items that are appropriately described and labeled. Prohibited cosmetics and beauty products include those that normally require a prescription, products that are adulterated or misbranded, and products that are past their expiration date or not sealed in the original manufacturer’s packaging.

Failure to understand and comply with Amazon’s prohibited listing rules could result in immediate suspension or termination of selling privileges and the destruction of inventory located in Amazon’s fulfillment centers without reimbursement.

FBA Prohibitions

In addition to prohibited listings, there are several items that are prohibited from the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program.

As with the general prohibited listings regulations, it is the seller’s responsibility to know whether the products shipped are prohibited from the FBA program. Shipping prohibited items to Amazon’s FBA warehouses could result in disposal without reimbursement.

The items in question include any product that cannot be lawfully sold and distributed in all US jurisdictions, such as foie gras, toy guns, and pepper spray; alcoholic beverages; products that weigh over 150 pounds; loose packaged batteries; and vehicle tires.

When working towards becoming a seller in Amazon’s restricted categories, it’s best to read all of the fine print, keep your product and purchasing paperwork organized, and comply with all Amazon listing guidelines. Furthermore, if you’re unsure whether or not a product might be considered a prohibited item, it probably is. Don’t risk your seller rating or ability to do business with Amazon by listing a potentially prohibited item.


Avalara Author
Bethany McDonald
Avalara Author Bethany McDonald