Not all categories on Amazon are created equal. Some you can sell in without any qualifications or restrictions, while others require approval from Amazon and compliance with federal laws.
Altogether, Amazon has 33 gated categories in the United States. We’re diving into Amazon’s restrictions on ten categories with the most complicated restrictions to make sure you know if your products are Amazon approved.
Animals & Animal-Related Products
We’re big animal lovers here at MerchantWords, so we’re happy Amazon is taking steps to ensure the safety of our fur babies and other animals. Unsurprisingly, the most significant restrictions revolve around endangered species. Sellers are not allowed to sell products that include any part of an endangered animal, including furs, feathers, bones, or other animal parts.
If you’re interested in selling in this category, make sure that you review The Lacey Act and The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. These are the two regulations that impact sales for animal products within the United States. California has enacted even stricter laws. Within the state the sale and shipment of foie gras or any products that include any part of cobras, pythons, kangaroos, feral horses, or porpoises are prohibited.
Pro-Tip: You are allowed to sell faux animal products on Amazon, along with live shellfish or crustaceans, and live insects or worms for bait or pet food.
With the addition of Amazon Handmade, Amazon has opened its doors to artisans. While artisans have their own set of listing restrictions, art sellers have been navigating Amazon’s complicated guidelines for years.
It’s important to note that the restrictions for Fine Art differ from those for Home Decor. This category is for individuals looking to sell one-of-a-kind work. Sellers who are interested in selling reproductions or mass-produced work (pieces with over 200 copies) can do so in the Home Decor category.
Products in the Fine Art category must be from a named artist and, if being sold second-hand, authenticated and include a sales history.
Pro-Tip: Amazon only accepts two-dimensional art. If you’re a sculptor, we recommend selling your work on another platform or through your own site.
Cosmetics, defined as products “that are usually rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed onto the body for cleansing, beautifying, or changing the appearance of the body,” are highly regulated on Amazon due to high levels of regulation by the US government. Sellers must ensure that the products are properly labeled and all statements made on the packaging and listing details page are truthful and accurate.
The regulations in this industry are continually evolving. Make sure to stay up-to-date on new laws so your product is fully compliant.
For a complete list of ingredients prohibited or restricted by Amazon, visit the cosmetics restriction page.
Supplements are a notoriously tricky category. As the FDA does not regulate this area, some sellers, have taken advantage of this loophole by bringing false or unsafe products to the market. Recently Amazon began enforcing requirements to guarantee customers receive high-quality products.
Many of the restrictions revolve around prohibited ingredients. Some prohibited ingredients include:
Pure powdered caffeine
List I chemicals
Ingredients derived from sharks, whales, dolphins, or porpoises
Before sourcing a supplement, confirm that all of its ingredients are allowed in products within the United States.
Pro Tip: Avoid products that guarantee quick weight-loss. Amazon has banned many of these products and brands from their platform.
Foods and Beverages
As Amazon continues to expand into the grocery industry, more sellers are entering this category. Before you make the move it’s essential to understand the rules.
Food packaging must be labeled clearly and appropriately. This includes:
Name and address of the packaging company
Net content quantity and weight (the weight of the contents, not including any packaging)
Products containing food must be properly sealed and shipped to avoid spillage and spoilage during shipping and storage in Amazon facilities.
If you include “organic” in your listing or packaging, your product must comply with the USDA’s organic regulations.
Pro Tip: You cannot sell the following items on Amazon: unregistered infant formula, goat's milk infant formula, HIPP formula and milk products, meat imported from China, betel nuts or flavoring, and kaffir lime leaves from Thailand.
Hazardous & Dangerous Products
For the most part, these restrictions are common sense. Amazon won’t allow products that contain cyanide or explosives. There are also restrictions on products known to cause harm or deaths, like inflatable neck floats for children, toy crossbows for sharp objects, and water walking balls. To be on the safe side, make sure that you review all of the ingredients, especially chemicals, that could potentially be in your product.
Though not restricted, potential dangers from products like magnets make them more difficult to ship and sell. Amazon restricted products like magnets due to the safety hazard that some magnets present to small children if swallowed. Do your research and be aware that there may be additional hoops to jump through before your listing can go live.
All third-party sellers can sell over-the-counter medical products like gauze, band-aids, and crutches. The main restriction within this niche is enrollment in Amazon’s Professional Health Care Program. You must become a certified seller, and a member of this program to sell medical devices. Enrolled sellers can sell products that require a prescription and all FDA-approved medical devices, among many others.
Amazon prohibits products the FDA deems dangerous or that make false claims. However, as long as you follow the rules, Amazon will keep your listing active.
Pro-Tip: If you’re interested in selling medical devices, email [email protected] to get information on Amazon category approval.
Drugs and Alcohol
Selling alcohol and tobacco over the internet has never been an easy process. Amazon has put further restrictions on selling these products to protect themselves and their customers.
The only type of pure alcohol that can be sold on Amazon is wine. Wine must be sold by approved sellers. However, any seller can sell alcohol-related items. This includes wine and beer making kits and alcohol-related accessories. Shoppers can also purchase chocolates containing liquors but not anything that “encapsulates raw alcohol.”
“Drugs” is a broad term, so Amazon defines drugs as “a substance used to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent diseases in people or animals.” Conversely, a “controlled substance” is an illegal drug, like cocaine. With extensive restrictions on drugs, we recommend following Amazon’s checklist to make sure your product meets the legal requirements. When selling in this category, you must be very careful which keywords you use in your listings. Using words like CBD can lead to listing suppression.
Amazon allows products used with tobacco, such as ashtrays, cigarette papers, and lighters. They also allow products designed to help customers quit smoking, including nicotine gum and patches. Amazon does not allow any products that contain tobacco. These restrictions also extend to e-cigarettes and vapes. Sellers are unable to list products like vapes or vape juice (e-cigarette juice), even if it does not contain tobacco.
Pro-Tip: Be careful when selling CBD or CBD related products. While this substance is legal in some states, it is illegal on a federal level. This has made it a grey area for Amazon sellers.
Sex and Sexual Wellness
To sell in this category, we recommend becoming a pre-approved seller. While you can sell over-the-counter contraceptives without Amazon’s approval, your options open up significantly once they give you the thumbs up. With Amazon’s blessing, you’re able to sell products related to sexual health and other novelty items. Remember, just like in real life, when it comes to sex, consent is important.
Amazon Restricted Products
Some products Amazon has declared are never allowed on their platform. These include:
Confederate flag merchandise
Ethanol products that are advertised as not being denatured, advertised as not having a bittering agent, or advertised as consumable
Real or replica government, law enforcement, security, or military or paramilitary badges, identification documents, birth certificates, passports, licenses, patches, collars, or tags
Products intended to be used to produce an illegal product or undertake an illegal activity
Products that contain asbestos, especially corrugated paper, rollboard, commercial paper, specialty paper, and flooring felt
Products that contain Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), such as some electrical equipment, plasticizers in paint, carbonless copy paper, and other industrial products
Video game bundles (e.g., bundles of products sold together, such as the "Sony PlayStation Portable Bundle with 5 Games") without pre-approval by Amazon
Products made from cotton sourced in Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan
Do Your Research
Remember to always double-check the rules and regulations on Amazon and the country you’re selling in when introducing a new product. As a seller, you need to be extra careful when selecting which category you’re going to sell in. Taking this small step can keep you from losing money while inventory sits stagnant or is seized and destroyed by the host country.
Though it can be time-consuming it’s worth taking the extra time to make sure you enter the right category, listing details, and keywords the first time around. Having Amazon suppress or deactivate your listing not only results in lost sales. You lose your seller ranking and have to work your way back up the search results page.
Bookmark Amazon’s 2019 restricted category list on Seller Central to make sure you’re always up-to-date or subscribe to the MerchantWords blog and we’ll keep you in the loop!
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