What are Amazon Restricted Categories? How Do You Get Approved? Is it Worth the Hassle?
by Drew Estes
You’ve done your research, found a product guaranteed to get tons of sales on the Amazon marketplace, only to find it’s in a restricted or “gated” category. Maybe you even started selling for a while before Amazon noticed, and now you’ve lost your ranking, or even had your account banned completely.
What gives? What does it even mean if your product is in an Amazon FBA restricted category? What products should you avoid, to save yourself the hassle?
What are restricted categories in Amazon FBA?
As a major retailer, Amazon has a reputation to uphold – especially when it comes to what people can sell in their marketplace. They can’t have you selling anything illegal for starters, nor do they want you selling anything too dangerous or controversial. They also exclude anything that can be easily faked, to avoid knockoff Gucci bags and all the other stuff you’d expect to find in some overseas flea market. Liquor and pharmaceuticals are off the table too.
Some categories are unexpected, and some specific products have bans with a story behind them. Stay tuned for a larger list.
There are a ton of restricted items, some of which are banned completely. Others however, simply require an approval process. (Well, it’s not always simple, but we’ll get to that). So just because you see your potential category marked as “restricted” doesn’t necessarily mean all hope is lost. It can seem a bit complicated at first glance, so let’s break it down.
What happens if you violate Amazon’s restrictions?
Nothing good. At best you might get a warning, but more likely it’s straight to disciplinary action. AMZ takes these rules very seriously, because their reputation is on the line, both in terms of their brand and their legal standing.
If you try to sell a restricted product without approval, you may have your listings cancelled, or lose some of your listing privileges. You might have your listing privileges suspended or removed altogether, and these can be extremely difficult to win back.
Which Amazon categories are restricted? Are they off-limits, or do they simply require approval?
You may be wondering whether your category is restricted. Are groceries gated too? What about toys? Supplements? Before we go on, Amazon Seller Central provides a complete list of Amazon restricted categories here. Click any of the categories in that link to learn more about it.
Some categories aren’t exactly banned, but you still have to go through an approval process before you’re able to sell them. Items like software, DVDs, and sometimes toys fall into this category. For more info, see Amazon Seller Central’s page on categories requiring approval.
These are big lists, so here are some of the commonly encountered gated categories to look out for. The descriptions here are just to give you an idea of what to pay attention to, so if you decide to enter one of these categories, you absolutely must do more research to ensure you stay compliant!
– As per Seller Central, you can generally sell electronics
“that (1) are legal for sale, (2) comply with applicable industry standards, (3) do not interfere with other electronics, and (4) do not circumvent other technical controls, such as copyright protection.” You’ll need the proper certification for reselling products, and nothing you sell should break laws or be meant for that purpose.
– there are some restrictions on lighting
, such as light bulbs if they do not comply with proper energy and design standards.
– there are a ton of restrictions on software
, limiting merchants to only sell the full retail versions of software. If this is your category, be sure to learn the prohibited items.
– unless you’re selling mass-produced style commercial art
, this isn’t the place to sell it. Certain established dealers can get in, with approval and when following certain requirements. Artists are usually better off on Etsy, Ebay, or other platforms.
Jewelry & Precious Gems
– as an extremely high-end category famed for fraud and counterfeit, the jewelry
category has some tight restrictions, and you’ll need to have the necessary qualifications too.
– despite being an incredibly profitable industry, cosmetics
are highly regulated by the government. Once approved, you’ll need to follow plenty of practices to ensure you stay compliant.
– it’s not terribly hard to sell basic medical
supplies like crutches or gauze, but you’ll still need to get approval, plus some of these products will still require prescriptions, and you’ll need the proper certification for this.
– a fairly easy category to get into, you still need to be very particular about proper labelling for textbooks
, and ensuring you only sell editions meant for students (more on that later)
– not only are many ingredients banned from sale on AMZ (from certain chemicals to many animal ingredients), there’s been big crackdowns on sellers making false claims, such as weight loss or disease treatment. Be very careful selling supplements
. LegitScript has a searchable database
you may want to use to see if your ingredients are okay.
Animals & Animal Products
– no surprises here, but Amazon doesn’t want you sending dogs (or other animals) in the mail. On top of this though, they have a ton of restrictions in place to protect animals
, particularly endangered species. Faux fur only!
Plant and Seed Products
– you need to comply with all federal, state, and local laws when it comes to transporting plants and seeds
. Some states have labelling requirements, certain states like California have laws to prevent invasive species for instance, and you’ll need to follow USDA requirements federally. Shipping internationally is another matter entirely (same goes for the next category).
Food & Beverage
– this is such a wide category that some things are much easier to get accepted than others. Goods will need to have all kinds of labelling, from the packaging company address to expiration date, and food safety rules
must be followed. Imported foods or ingredients
have their own labeling rules.
Sex & Sexual Health
– clearly nobody should be selling people, though that’s not really the focus of this restriction. This is more about contraceptives like condoms, as well as various adult toys and novelty products. View the policies on adult products.
– weapons, explosives and poisons are obviously a no-go here, but Amazon has also banned products known to cause deaths, particularly among children. Magnetic toys may still get a pass sometimes, but compliance is hugely important here. Be sure your product hasn’t been recalled or marked unsafe.
– Alcohol sales are tightly controlled, though wine can be sold by some sellers. Tobacco
and vape products are a no-go, but related products like lighters and cases are fine (there’s a similar leniency for beer-making products). “Drugs
” refers to both pharmaceuticals and “controlled substances” like street drugs. So if you’re trying to build the next crystal meth empire, Amazon is not the place for you (and on that note, neither is our site).
Even once approved, sellers still need to follow all Federal Trade Commission (FTC) laws around advertising, to avoid misleading any customer about certain features or benefits of your product, or any environmental or health standards it claims to adhere to.
Certain products are completely banned without exception. Aside from things above like endangered animal products or illegal drugs, you also can’t sell:
Real or fake official documents (such as passports, police badges, birth certificates, etc).
Products containing asbestos or other extremely dangerous chemicals
Products used for an illegal activity (or to create an illegal substance)
Controversial items like Confederate flags, "Washington Redskins” merchandise, as well as anything else that may promote violence, hate, racism, sexism, intolerance, or really anything along those lines.
Gambling and Lottery products such as lottery tickets or functional slot machines.
“Mystery boxes” or similarly named listings that aren’t clearly described on the page
Property or real estate
Products made available by digital download, such as via code
Privacy infringing products, such as marketing lists
Academic solutions manuals or teacher's editions of textbooks in any format
Cars: tempting to try, until you think of the return costs.
Secondhand clothing: products like clothing have condition requirements
Fuel such as gasoline and similar combustibles
Guns: However, BB guns, paintball guns, and similar nonlethal weapons can be sold, as can gun safes and safety equipment.
Seller Central provides the complete list of categories that are never allowed, so be sure to read through for more details if you’re concerned about your product.
It’s also important to remember there are bundling rules and restrictions, so certain products (such as video games with their respective consoles) can’t be sold in bundles. While bundling is a great pricing strategy to boost profits, there are a lot of rules to keep in mind. Bundles must consist of items that are highly complementary for instance, and must comply with the Product Bundling Policy.
How do I apply for approval in a restricted category?
To apply for approval, you’ll need a Professional Selling plan, which you should probably have anyway! Then, you’ll need to add a product from your Inventory menu, search for the item you want to sell, and click the “listing limitations apply” link next to the item when you see it in the search results. From here you can Request Approval to begin the process.
So is it worth the hassle to get approved?
If you can, yes! The more obstacles there are to sell something, the less competition you’re going to have. Meanwhile, doing what’s easy leads to a saturated, high competition market.
Getting approval for a restricted category often means less competition for your product, and if it’s a profitable category you can do extremely well. The main hurdle is setting up the processes to make sure you stay compliant with the rules for the category, so be sure to read the fine print.
We’ve had a ton of success selling light bulbs on Amazon, which you can learn all about on our YouTube series, New Mogul. Check out Episode One here!
Amazon’s policies on gated categories are always being updated and amended, so this article should serve as your starting point, giving you an idea of what you need to look out for. Follow the links to find your product category, then use that to find out whether your product is restricted. You can then learn what you’ll need to do to qualify and get “ungated.” As long as you follow Amazon’s guidance, it should be smooth sailing from there.