How to get approved to sell products within restricted product categories
One of the largest perpetual hurdles Amazon sellers face is gaining approval to sell products within a category or brand on the Amazon marketplace (otherwise known as ungating or being ungated). There are a lot of questions out there and information can be scatted and incomplete. Here’s all the relevant information you need in order to get approved to sell products in categories that may not be open to you by default.
Before we begin
It needs to be crystal clear that this article isn’t about the dirty secrets of getting approved in categories. The information here is publicly available and spread out within Seller Central help documentation. At the end of the article, we’ll touch upon ungating services and how the right ungating service can help you succeed without any sort of black-hat tricks that could get you suspended from the Marketplace entirely. We’re also going to try and shy away from speculation about how sellers can become auto-approved to sell in categories and brands. Only Amazon knows the requirements for certain; anyone who claims to know the secret is probably lying or has company confidential information they received without Amazon’s permission (because Amazon would never give permission).
What does “restricted” mean?
When we think about whether one is or is not allowed to sell products in a certain category on the Amazon Marketplace, we call that being “restricted”–or more informally–being “gated.” Essentially, Amazon has a set of rules and requirements in place for a variety of categories and sub-categories a seller has to meet in order to be allowed to sell those products on the Marketplace.
These categories have special requirements for a variety of reasons and generally depend on the category itself. In other words, the requirements to sell a topical product won’t be the same as selling an Automotive product, but both will have additional steps required in order to be approved.
Types of Restrictions
Even though the restricted categories all have their own requirements, they generally end up in three major buckets.
Category-specific burdens of proof
These types of requirements are in place to demonstrate that the seller knows what they’re doing and is legitimately selling these types of products. These hurdles aren’t too terribly hard to get over.
Liability ownership and legal conformity
You’ll find this to be the case in any category where products could potentially cause harm if not manufactured correctly or for the intended purpose. Amazon is the facilitator of the sale and requires sellers to prove the product they wish to sell on the Marketplace is safe. This is a documentation-heavy category with a high bar for accuracy and completeness.
This type of restriction focuses around brands. While the Doctrine of First Sale legally protects a seller from being targeted, as a private company, Amazon still has the final say as to which brands are allowed to be sold on the Marketplace and by whom. Brands that have established themselves in the Brand Registry will place restrictions that force a seller to provide evidence the brand has given them the green light to sell their products. This most often comes in the form of an invoice (not a receipt) from a distributor or the manufacturer itself.
Why not a receipt?
A receipt from a retail store is not documentation stating the brand or authorized distributor has granted you the right to re-sell the product, nor is it an invoice from either source. Receipts are for end-user sales and will not be accepted when applying for approval in a category. Other countries may use the “invoice” term for the documentation of paid-for goods or services, but it’s still an end-user sale.
Put simply, receipts from retail stores will never work; a retailer is not a distributor. It doesn’t get clearer than that.
Categories commonly restricted to new sellers
While this isn’t mean to be an exhaustive list, here are the categories most new sellers will find themselves needing approval in order to sell within the category. Some of these may only have restrictions in their sub-categories. These categories typically require authorized reseller documentation like was discussed in the previous section.
- Health and Beauty
- Toys & Games
- Medical Devices
- Over-the-counter medication
Holiday Requirements for Toys and Games
This category also has seasonal restrictions. Amazon requires sellers to maintain good IPI and order performance in order to sell in this category. For more information on that, click here.
Categories with additional requirements
These categories and subcategories require additional documentation beyond an invoice. Click on each link to be taken to the specific post on how to get into these categories.
- Music & DVD
- Amazon Handmade
- Sports Collectibles
- Video, DVD, Blu-Ray
- Collectible Coins
- Entertainment Collectables
- Fine Art
- Streaming Media Players
- Subscription Boxes
- Hazardous Materials
Wine(marketplace closed as of December 31, 2017)
Some categories only allow products to be sold in certain conditions. For example, Amazon does not allow sellers to sell used clothing, but will allow used books. When needing approval, Seller Central will state that the seller needs to apply for approval to list products in X category in New condition, but they’re not accepting applications to sell products in X category in Collectable, Like New, or Used condition. This requirement can also extend to a specific brand, as well, if said brand so chooses.
Prohibited Product Categories
There are some products that Amazon does not allow to be sold on the marketplace in certain conditions. In particular, these items cannot be sold FBA but can be sold as merchant-fulfilled. All the items on this list have restrictions, as well, up to and including out-right being disallowed.
Auto-approvals based on your performance history
Amazon often grants approvals to sell particular brands in and specific categories based on your performance history. In other words, while the exact calculation is not known, the general consensus in the community from seasoned, well-performing, professional sellers is that order volume, return rate, seller account health (claims, used-as-new, etc.), feedback rating, other brand approvals, buyer communication, restock rates, and inbound shipping performance may all play a part in these decisions. Brands are allowed to set the stipulations for themselves within the Brand Registry.
Some words on ungating services
There are two major types of ungating services: ones that teach, and ones that do. It is my humble opinion that you always avoid any ungating service that offers to “get you ungated” or otherwise provides resources to fool the application system into thinking you’re an authorized seller. This does nothing for you but create a ticking time bomb where at the end, Amazon suspends you permanently and without recourse for misleading them.
Tread with caution and do your research with services that teach. There’s a fine line, here, but it’s not against the rules to offer up consultation on what the exact requirements are about a product brand or category and what those requirements look like in the real world. The majority of this information comes from scouring the Seller Central help docs and real-world experience. For example, a service teaching you what a CPC (child product certificate) looks like for the Toys & Games category and why it’s important versus making one appear for your usage. I’m sure you can tell which is a no-go.
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