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Products You Can’t Sell on Amazon

  • Dec 15, 2015 | Laura McCamy

It’s hard to remember that Amazon.com started out as a book retailer. In Amazon’s giant ecommerce marketplace, you can now by everything from a copy of Goodnight Moon to a kit to test the safety of your well water. It’s hard to imagine anything you can’t get -- or sell -- on Amazon.

In reality, there are detailed rules on what you can and can’t sell on Amazon.com. Sellers of items in certain categories have to submit their listings to Amazon for approval. These include jewelry, major appliances, sport collectibles, and health and personal care, among others. The ecommerce giant details types of products that can and cannot be sold in many different categories.

If you sell on Amazon, you might not find out that you can’t sell a product or brand on the site until you get a notification that your listing is being taken down. Before you buy a shipping container of laser pointers to sell on Amazon, here is a guide to point you away from the danger zones (hint: you can’t sell any type of laser on Amazon).

Contraband Ban

You may be able to buy a “Rolex” for twenty bucks from a guy with a folding table on the streets of Manhattan, but you won’t find it on Amazon. Many of the site’s rules and restrictions on sellers are designed to prevent sales of counterfeit or contraband items. Counterfeiting equipment is prohibited, and items that might involve fraud, such as gift cards, are restricted. Products that are manufactured with serial numbers must be sold with the serial numbers intact.

Smoked Out

Marijuana may be legal in the state where you live, but don’t plan to sell it on Amazon. You can’t sell controlled substances of any kind (no surprise there), and the site also bans related products like drug paraphernalia and certain types of bath salts, herbs, seeds, and hemp products. All tobacco products are also banned, though ashtrays and humidors are allowed.

I Don’t Recall -- But Amazon Remembers

If a product has been recalled, even years ago, you won’t be able to list it on Amazon. The list of products banned because of recalls includes items as disparate as Excedrin Sinus Headache pills and Corningware coffee pots from the 1970s. When it comes to recalls, Amazon has a long memory, so do your homework before you stock up on inventory.

Banned Brands

While there isn’t an official list of brands that you can’t sell on Amazon, users and bloggers have compiled their own. This list will change over time, as new brands shift their strategies for Amazon sales. Some brands exclusively sell their own products on Amazon through their own ecommerce stores, and some allow only certain sellers to resell their items.

According to user reports, Amazon restricts or bans sellers from listing Apple products, Beats by Dr. Dre, Urban Decay beauty products, Coach bags, Chico’s clothing, and many more.

This said, there do seem to be exceptions to the rules. While the top listings for Apple products on Amazon are for sale by Apple, there are plenty of other sellers listing used iPhones for sale, so it might be a good idea to consult with Amazon to confirm whether you can sell a particular brand or a brand’s product on the site.

Above the Law

If you want specialize in products that help people get around the law, don’t plan to sell on Amazon. From radar jammers to kits that help you evade drug tests to jailbroken iPhones, anything that is designed to evade legal restrictions is prohibited.

Prime Compatibility

As Amazon moves increasingly into entertainment and business realms, it has begun to restrict sales of items that aren’t compatible with its media and sales empire. For example, you won’t find Apple TV, Google’s Chromecast, or Nexus Player for sale on the site because they don’t support Prime Video, Amazon’s streaming video service.

Don’t Be a Hater

Amazon bans a category it calls “Offensive Products.” This includes items that come from disasters or tragedies, and “products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance, or promote organizations with such views.” Amazon may remove products that run afoul of this policy.

This may be one of the hardest policies to enforce. While Amazon joined several other large companies in banning sales of the Confederate flag earlier this year, a recent search brought up a listing for a "South Will Rise Again flag," which looks identical to the Confederate flag. The product description includes the statement, “This is NOT a Confederate Battle Flag.” It seems to have fooled Amazon’s algorithms -- for now.

Research Before You Set Up Shop

There is more -- so much more. You can’t sell live goats or gunpowder or gold ingots. While you are allowed to ship live crabs to your customers, medflies and rabies vaccine are on the prohibited list. If you are setting up a new shop or adding to your product line, read up on Amazon’s site and ask around in the user forums to steer clear of items that you won’t be able to sell on Amazon.

Need help or have questions pertaining to managing sales tax on Amazon? Be sure to check out our Guide to Amazon Sales Tax.

How to Apply to Sell Products Requiring Approval

As mentioned above, there are product categories on Amazon that require requests for approval in order to be listed for sale. The process for such a request is as follows:

  1. On Amazon Seller Central, visit the Categories and Product Requiring Approval page on Amazon.
  2. Click on the product category you are interested in listing for sale.
  3. Review the requirements (general, quality, data, etc.).
  4. Request approval or apply to sell.

Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Avalara Author
Laura McCamy
Avalara Author Laura McCamy