Amazon Restrictions & Ungating
Updated: May 19, 2020
This is some helpful information for all you Amazon Sellers out there who find themselves stuck on how to become approved to sell restricted or "gated" brands and items. As a wholesale supplier, we have ungated hundreds of brands/products and can tell you what you as a new or veteran seller need to know about the many complicated layers of Amazon's various restrictions and how EXACTLY we are able to get you approved to sell some of the most lucrative brands on Amazon. As a reseller, Amazon can offer you a lot of great benefits. Nothing beats the exposure your products get as you tap into the largest e-commerce platform ever created. To keep its status as the online super-giant they go above and beyond to ensure the customer is always happy. Unfortunately for you the 3rd party seller, that means you have to adhere to a very strict set of rules and there is always a myriad of hurdles for you to jump through. One of the toughest hurdles to leap is getting your account approved to sell many of the hottest brands and products online and is an issue that we hear from our followers all the time. There are many resources online that may give you a rough outline of restricted brands and categories. As a wholesaler that often works with Amazon to get accounts ungated in different areas, we can give you a bit more detailed information about this process and a small peak under the hood of how it all works so you can make informed and confident decisions when sourcing for your Amazon store. I suggest you bookmark this page as this will be a wealth of useful information on the topic. Types of Gates and Restrictions
As a seller, when you try to list a product on Amazon you will often come to the dreaded "you require approval to sell this item" page... this is commonly referred to as a 'gate' What you might not notice is that the type of approval you need is listed as well (as of the time of this writing it shows up in the top right corner of the page). The type of approval(s) you need is quite important as it will dictate what you need to do in order to proceed. Restrictions Vs. Gates First off, the terms "Restriction" and "Gate" are often used interchangeably, however, they technically are defined differently by Amazon. A Restriction refers to products that are NOT allowed to be sold on Amazon AT ALL (guns, alcohol, tobacco, explosives, radioactive material, body parts... ridiculous examples, but they are in fact written in the Amazon policies), while a Gate is something that you need to apply for and be approved of in order to sell a product.
I'm not going to waste your time going over all the policies here since they are pretty much common sense, but if you wish to look at detailed information on Amazon's restricted products policies check out the Amazon article here.
Category Gates All items on Amazon are sorted by category (apparel, electronics, toys, grocery, etc). Some of these categories require you to obtain approval in order to sell anything within them, and each of these 'gated' categories has different requirements you must meet before you are approved to sell within them. These gates often require you to demonstrate that your business sells a certain volume (toys during 4th quarter), pass an online exam to demonstrate knowledge of federal laws regarding hazmat or controlled products, submit FDA paperwork, or submit your own photographs of a product you intend to sell to demonstrate that understand and can provide high-quality images that meet Amazon's policy. Typically all the requirements you need to meet are about YOUR BUSINESS, and there is very little that a wholesale supplier is going to be able to do to help you here unless they offer specific Amazon services (we as some other suppliers offer services to Amazon sellers specifically such as professional product photography). While we can point you in the right direction and help you down the path of getting your account approved for these gated categories, this is an area where you are going to have to do the bulk of the leg-work in getting approved with Amazon. Some of the biggest and most common category gates are: - Automotive - Apparel - Jewelry - Toys & Games (holiday season) - Watches - Collectibles (Books, sports, coins, entertainment, etc) - Shoes - Grocery/Pantry - Health & Beauty For more information about category gates, check out the Amazon article here: Amazon is always updating category gates and approval requirements, and some of these updated changes are not widely publicized to their 3rd party selling community so it is important to always check to see if your account is restricted in a particular category before you decide you would like to sell in it. The best way to do this is by trying to add a product to your catalog that already exists in the category you are interested in and see if you are able to list the item. Sub-Category Gates So you got yourself approved in a category... Awesome! However, that might not be the end of the ungating process for you since there can be categories within a category that contains their own gate for which you need to meet a specific set of criteria similar to the category gates. Topicals, for example, is a common sub-category gate within the broader Beauty category. You may find yourself able to list and sell some beauty products such as hair gel without a problem but may hit a roadblock when you try to sell a moisturizing cream. Brand & ASIN Gates This is where your suppliers are going to start having a hand in being able to help you get your account ungated. Pretty much all the big brands on Amazon these days require approval to sell in. While it's a huge pain in the neck for you, the seller, these gates were put into place in response to the rampant explosion of counterfeit products being pushed through Amazon. Since Amazon thrives off of customer satisfaction, it became a huge initiative to put a stop to the sale of inauthentic products on the website, and forcing sellers to prove they are sourcing their products properly has made a dramatic impact for the better on the platform. Some brands may allow you to sell some products without approval, but require approval to sell others. These are called ASIN gates where specific products are gated. The route to becoming ungated is the same in both instances. You are able to earn approval to sell most brands by demonstrating that you are purchasing through a TRUSTED wholesale supplier. The most common way to show this is by providing Amazon with an invoice from your source. Unlike a receipt from a store, an Invoice includes more detail regarding an order including the buyer's full billing information as well as the seller's location/contact information along with the details of what you ordered. Amazon accepts an invoice over a receipt as proof of authenticity since an invoice is tied directly to you whereas a receipt can be tied to someone else (paying in cash or using someone else's credit card, for example, would not prove that YOU made the purchase. An invoice with all of your information and the supplier's information on the other hand does). I REALLY want to put an emphasis on TRUSTED supplier here... Alibaba, DHGate, Some random guy's website are not trusted suppliers. A trusted supplier should be able to provide you details about their company such as their location, Federally appointed business number, and should be able to point to the public records showing that their business is an active and legitimate entity. Further, Amazon will want to see that the business has been around for a number of years and isn't just a fly-by-night operation. The Ungating Process So you are approved in your categories of interest, you found yourself a trusted supplier, now what? Well, the process is actually pretty simple for you (relatively speaking) from this point forward. 1. Make a purchase from your supplier for the product or brand you want to ungate. Your supplier is not going to provide authentication to Amazon without you actually place an order and they aren't going to just make up an invoice for you so you can ungate a brand. Firstly, they are vouching for the product and that you purchased it from them so there are legal issues at play and they can certainly wind up in deep water. Secondly, your supplier doesn't work for free... you shouldn't be asking them to anyway. 2. Tell your supplier that you are selling on Amazon Amazon is going to be talking with your supplier once you submit an invoice for approval, it is important that your supplier knows this so they can proceed accordingly. Also, Amazon is very specific as to what types of invoices they want to see from your supplier, they may need to provide you an Amazon-specific invoice. Also, you need to make CERTAIN that your business/billing information on the invoice that you receive from your supplier MATCHES the information in your Amazon account. If your Amazon account is in a different name or has a different address associated with it you need to make sure the invoice you receive from your supplier matches or you will not get approved! 3. Submit your invoice to Amazon and wait It could take a day, it could take a week... Amazon works at its own pace. They will be getting in contact with your supplier to verify the authenticity of the products, and that you did in fact order from them. DO NOT try to forge or alter an invoice from a supplier to just ungate yourself in something... you will get caught and you will be permanently banned from Amazon. I have seen it happen. 4. Once approved thank your Supplier/sales rep It's extra work for your supplier to work with Amazon to ungate your account in a brand or ASIN. A small gesture of gratitude will go a long way for you! Note: Once approved it can take up to 48 hours before you are actually able to list your item(s) What if I didn't get approved??? If you have a legit supplier and sent in your invoices as requested by Amazon there are a few typical reasons why you might not have been approved on your first go around. Don't worry! More often than not you will be able to resubmit your invoice for approval (even if the denial letter Amazon sends you says that the decision is "final"). Amazon is extremely vague when they deny an ungate request, and will not actually tell you exactly why you were denied. From our experience we found the following to be the most common reasons: 1. Double-check that the billing information on the invoice and the information Amazon has on record for your account MATCH! Sometimes they can be really picky about this and if there is even a slight discrepancy they may deny it. If needed you may have to contact your supplier and ask them to make corrections to the invoice and send back to you. 2. Contact your supplier and ask if Amazon verified your order with them. As mentioned previously, Amazon will reach out to your supplier to verify that you did, in fact, make an order with them. If Amazon tried to contact your supplier and a rep wasn't able to take the call because the line was busy etc. Amazon will just deny the application and move on. If Amazon did contact your supplier and you still got denied it is likely due to #1. 3. Make sure that the product information on your invoice is SPECIFIC. You want to make it simple for Amazon to match the product on your invoice to a product they have in their catalog already. A description that is the same as Amazon's catalog page along with a UPC/EAN is typically the best way. Sometimes your supplier can match up the ASIN of their product to the Amazon catalog too and provide this information if it exists and use that.
Sometimes it doesn't matter if you have a legit supplier, are approved in all the categories, and dotted every I and crossed every T. Amazon has contracts with a number of brands to provide exclusivity for the brand/item. Either Amazon wants to be the only one to offer the brand, or they arrange a deal so the brand is the only one able to sell their products on Amazon. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do in these instances. A couple of examples of exclusive brands would be Levi's and Elizabeth Arden.
Amazon's Rules: Ungating risk & rewards Many people erroneously think that it is the brand owners that are causing the gates and restrictions on Amazon. This is not true. It is Amazon's house and they make all the rules. If they want to decide to not let 3rd party sellers sell a particular brand anymore they can do it on a whim. If they decide they want to let everyone sell every brand, they can do that too. The brand owners can work out a deal with Amazon, or can file investigations for in-authenticity or copy-write infringement, etc. but they cannot restrict Amazon from allowing the sale of their products. Amazon is notoriously secretive about why they do the things they do, and you must always consider the fact that even if you did everything just right, there is a chance that you may not be allowed to sell a product. A SUPPLIER CANNOT GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO SELL A PRODUCT ON AMAZON. If a supplier tells you otherwise, even if it is direct from the CEO of the brand itself, they are leading you astray. Amazon has the final say on their platform and can prevent you from selling an item for any reason they want. They might justify denying your application because the sky is blue, the grass is green, and it's a day that ends in 'y'... it is important to know that it is Amazon who makes all the final decisions on an account by account basis. If you follow the steps and have an account in good standing you are likely going to get ungated without a problem, but you are always taking a risk when you sell on Amazon. While we don't know specifically what reasoning Amazon may have for approving or denying an application, we have noticed a few trends in our many experiences ungating Amazon seller accounts: 1. Accounts that are older than 6 months and have a history of sales are more easily ungated on the first attempt.
2. Accounts with very positive metrics (reviews, return rate, policy violations, etc) are ungated more easily on the first attempt.
3. Invoices that contain at least 30 units of a single item are typically ungated more successfully (regardless of what the 'requirement' is by Amazon).
4. The first time you try to ungate a brand/item using a new supplier typically takes longer to process than future ungate attempts with the same supplier.
A final word of warning. Just because you got approved to sell a brand or ASIN due to having a legitimate supplier providing you an invoice, that supplier is ONLY providing you with paperwork for the products on that invoice. So if you ungate a brand through a supplier then decide to start buying items from the clearance rack at your local department store to sell on Amazon tread very carefully as it can end up landing you into a big mess with Amazon! I hope this is a help to those of you wanting to get ungated in certain brands on Amazon. If you are looking to ungate a specific brand, especially in cosmetics, please contact us! We have ties with a lot of the biggest brands and are happy to set the wheels in motion to getting whichever brand you need ungated on your Amazon account!