Ever try to sell a certain product on Amazon, but was restricted? Many new sellers don’t know that Amazon actually maintains certain restricted categories. To say the least, information on these Amazon restricted categories and products can be pretty confusing.
So, to help you out, we created this guide to Amazon restricted categories. We’ll also explain how it can affect your business.
Amazon Restricted Categories
At least this part is pretty straightforward. There are actually three different types of restrictions when selling on Amazon:
- Restricted categories: As the name suggests, these are entire categories with a blanket restriction. To sell any product in that category, you need to apply for permission. And then you can sell any product in that category.
- Restricted products: These are specific types of products that are restricted, regardless of whether or not other products in their category are restricted as well.
- Prohibited FBA items: These are items that Amazon simply refuse to sell because of their safety, lifespan, etc.
We won’t really deal with the last one as these are flat-out prohibited and you can’t apply to sell them. However, you can read more about them here. You can also find the specific restricted products here. Most of them fall underneath the restricted categories, but others stand on their own. On this overview of categories page, there is a table in which you can see what product categories enforce additional selling guidelines. Although they are not restricted.
All-in-all there are 14 restricted categories on Amazon:
- Automotive & Powersports
- Join Amazon Handmade
- Sports Collectibles
- Video, DVD, & Blu-ray
- Collectible Coins
- Entertainment Collectibles
- Fine Art
- Streaming Media Players
The following categories are restricted only during certain times (usually peak season from October-December):
- Baby Items
- Toys & Games
Why are they restricted?
So, why restrict these products? Before we give our opinion, it might be best to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. This is what Amazon has to say on the matter:
“Customers trust that they can always buy with confidence on Amazon. Products offered for sale on Amazon must comply with all laws and regulations and with Amazon’s policies. The sale of illegal, unsafe, or other restricted products listed on these pages, including products available only by prescription, is strictly prohibited.”
As you can see, the more obvious reasons are that the law, unsafe, etc. might regulate these products. What’s not mentioned is that most of these products also rely heavily on arriving in a good condition (such as collectibles) or are usually sold by leading brands. In which case, you will need to be an authorized reseller.
Amazon has always been all about the customer experience. They have spent years building trust in their marketplace and fulfillment network. It’s this trust that sees them grow year on year and lures so many customers to take the risk and buy online. One of the biggest reasons for restricted categories is that they want to limit negative customer experience in crucial categories as much as possible.
How to get access to restricted categories (or “ungated”)?
What makes navigating the seas of Amazon restricted categories so tricky is the fact that there is no uniform process or set of requirements to get ungated to all categories. Some are as simple as filling in a single application form, others are as complex as proving your track record in that industry or providing proof of your own online/brick and mortar store, and yet others require a certain performance selling on Amazon.
However, the basic process goes as follows:
- Choose to add a product from your Seller Dashboard.
- Search for the item you want to sell.
- If it’s a restricted product, there should automatically be a link that says “Listing limitations may apply”.
- Then, click the “Request approval” button to begin the application process.
- In most cases, you will need to fill out an application form. Although this form will vary depending on the specific product or category, you can expect the following:
- The number of authenticated products you sell.
- An estimation of your yearly revenue selling these products.
- The number of different products you intend to sell in the category.
- A link to your online store/company website (if any).
- Additional information on your company or business, if you have any.
- Your personal details.
Once this is done, you are in Amazon’s hands. Keep in mind that depending on the category or product, there might be some back and forth necessary until the entire process is completed.
How does selling items in Amazon restricted categories affect your business?
You must have a professional seller account
Having a professional account is a must for almost all categories. Even where it’s not explicitly stated as a requirement, you can bet your bottom dollar that they take it into account. Generally, it’s accepted. Professional sellers are more serious about selling on Amazon and will perform better. A “Professional” selling account also comes with additional tools that will help a seller in one of these categories.
Your account should be in good standing
You should review individual categories for their specific benchmarks. However, a number of them require a certain level of performance metrics. For example, to sell in jewelry or watches, you need an order-defect rate of less than 1%, a cancellation rate of 2.5% or less, and a late shipment rate of 4% or less.
Likewise, selling toys and games, which are only restricted for the holiday season, you need to have certain metrics selling in September-November. As Amazon is very strict on projecting a good image to the public and protecting their name, we’re sure that in some cases they also take these factors into account. Whether or not it’s stated as a requirement.
It helps if you have your own online store
This is arguably the one requirement that will have the most significant effect on your business. Amazon might require that you have your own online store or e-commerce website when selling in specific categories. Examples of these can be automotive parts, collectible coins, etc. Or a brick-and-mortar business, such as an art gallery for fine art.
In this case, Amazon will only form one channel of your sales. Luckily, you can still fulfill everything through Amazon MCF (Mult-Channel Fulfillment), and it will only include a little it of extra effort to process your other orders. With a Professional Seller account and MCF, you can add orders in batches using sheets on Amazon. And you only need to deliver them to fulfillment centers the same way.
Your items may need to pass certain safety standards
One of the reasons why Amazon restricts certain products is because they might be unsafe for use by the general public. Understandably, Amazon doesn’t want to be blamed if something happens to an unfortunate customer. This could include anything from medical equipment to age restrictions on media.
Some products are even outright prohibited because they are unsafe to transport via Amazon FBA. At the very least, your products will have to meet any expectations set in law or demanded by government bodies. If your products might be subject to any of these, you will need to show your certificates of approval when you apply. Additionally, each new product will need to meet the requirements.
You may need a government license or other membership
For example, if you want to sell collectible coins, you will need to be registered with a legally recognized government min. Or, if you want to sell watches, you need to be certified with certain watch certification organizations. The same goes if you want to sell wine.
It might be area-dependent
To make things even trickier for your business, each state has their own legal requirements for selling certain items in their jurisdiction. This is especially true for a state like California or a product like wine. To make sure you know exactly what your potential market is, you should do the proper research beforehand to figure out if any state-level restrictions will apply to sell your product.
It might be seasonal
Amazon comes under a lot of strain during the holiday season. More than that, the sudden influx of new sellers has the potential to tarnish their otherwise stellar performance throughout the year. Amazon already increases their warehousing and fulfillment fees during this period. So, it’s no surprise that they place additional restrictions on specific items.
Right now, toys and games- two things that sell particularly ferociously during this time, are open to anyone for most of the year but restricted from October to December. To unlock it, you will need to show that you performed well during the months preceding this period. This might extend to other products in the future as Amazon regularly revises their policies and as selling during this time grows in popularity.
You might be better off on eBay or Etsy
Although we usually sing the praises of Amazon here, we are also obligated to give you the best advice for your business. Amazon has such relatively strict requirements because they are so serious about protecting their name and reputation. Other platforms are a bit more free-for-all.
You can sell many of these categories without any restriction on sites like eBay or Etsy (especially for handmade goods). However, you will lose the other amazing benefits of selling on Amazon, such as that it’s the worlds’ largest marketplace, Amazon Prime membership, and it’s world-leading FBA program.
Where to go from here
Before you feel too discouraged or overly encouraged, you should check the individual category that you want to sell in for its requirements. Their difficulty for which to get approval and list of requirements vary dramatically from category to category.
If you want help in choosing a good category as a beginner in the world of Amazon FBA, this guide on our blog might help you. We’ve also created an article on the 5 Best Products To Sell On Amazon And Why They’re Successful.
We hope that you’ve found this guide on Amazon restricted categories useful and that it can help you decide whether or not to pursue one of them for your business. As always, good luck and happy selling!