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What products and businesses are prohibited on Shopify?

I’ve written this article because many of my clients came to me with questions about what products or businesses Shopify allows on their platform and what not.

I’ve received daily inquiries via my contact page like: “Can you help me build a store on Shopify or develop a custom theme to match my business?” but sometimes unfortunately Shopify doesn’t support that type of business or the product is prohibited on the Shopify platform.

Not all the businesses are sketchy or promise unrealistic gains but just some of the products are too risky for Shopify to support on their platform.

Shopify allows you to sell many different types of products but some are not allowed by the platform.

If you decide to join the Shopify family know that the highest trending products for 2021 on Shopify include:

  • beauty products like peel-off face mask and nail polish; 
  • sports and fitness products like exercise bands, yoga and pilates mats, kayak accessories, 
  • home decor products like kitchen and dining room furniture, rugs, blankets 
  • free time accessories like board games, and laptop skins, water bottles or jigsaw puzzles.

Among all these there are also many products and services that you can’t sell on Shopify that is because Shopify has one of the longest lists of prohibited and restricted items out of any ecommerce platforms. 

From financial services to regulated products, there are hundreds of them. If your business deals with any of these Shopify won’t let you sell them even if they’re legal where you live.

Here is everything you need to know about Shopify prohibited items.

1. Professional or financial services

Investment and credit services

  • This includes services offered by securities brokers, services in mortgage consulting, or debt reduction services.
  • It can also include services on credit counseling or repair, investment services, real estate opportunities or lending instruments.

Money and legal services from institutions

  • In this category we can include financial institutions along with money transmitters and money services businesses, check cashing, wire transfers, money orders.
  • Also if you offer currency exchanges or dealers, bill-pay services, crowdfunding, insurance, bail bonds, collections agencies.
  • Institutions like law firms that collect funds for any purpose other than to pay fees owed to the firm for services provided by the firm.

Virtual currency or stored value

  • You are not allowed to sell virtual currency that can be monetized, resold, or converted to digital or physical products and services or otherwise exit the virtual world (one example is Bitcoin).
  • Services that offer cryptocurrency mining equipment or initial coin offerings. 
  • Also not allowed to offer products in the form of digital wallets, sale of stored value or credits maintained, accepted, and issued by anyone other than merchants.

2. Businesses that offer regulated, illegal products and services or IP infringement

Sexually oriented items

  • This includes  products or services in domains like pornography and other obscene materials (including literature, imagery, and other media) depicting nudity or explicit sexual acts.
  • Also sites on which are offered any sexually-related services such as prostitution, escorts, pay-per-view or adult live chat functionalities.
  • Also included in this category are adult toys, adult video stores, and sexually-oriented massage parlors.
  • Services or promotions for gentlemen’s clubs, topless bars, and strip clubs.
  • Sites that offer sexually oriented dating services.

Counterfeit or unauthorized goods like

Items that are considered counterfeit goods, services for the unauthorized sale or resale of brand name or designer products or services,and also sale of goods or services that are illegally imported or exported.

Alcohol

Due to the fact that the US alone is home to 8,386 breweries, if you’re one of these businesses, know that you can’t sell your products on Shopify. That is because alcohol is one of the (many) age-restricted items included in the list of Shopify prohibited items.

Solvents

According to the last statistics there are at least 350 common solvents used in the US, such as alcohol, benzene, gasoline, and kerosene. In this category also go products like lighter fluid and portable camping stoves that also use solvents in the form of butane.

If you have an online store that deals with any or all these products then your store classifies as one of Shopify’s prohibited businesses.

Fireworks

  • Fireworks and related goods, toxic, flammable, and radioactive materials, products and services with varying legal status on a state-by-state basis.
  • When it comes to this type of product you should know that certain types of consumer fireworks are legal in 46 states as well as Washington, DC. According to the law the only state where it’s completely illegal (as in all forms of it) is Massachusetts. Beside the ones mentioned above there are states like Illinois, Ohio, and Vermont that impose stringent laws on these products’ usage.

But unfortunately, these products are among one of the many generalized Shopify prohibited items. So, even if, as mentioned above, fireworks are legal in your area, you won’t be able to use Shopify’s Payments Services to sell them on Shopify.

Firearms and Weapons

  • You should also know that Shopify prohibits firearms and anything else that can classify as a weapon, even knives. 
  • Moreover they do not allow the sales of munition, gunpowder, similar substances, and explosives. 
  • Other items included in this category and that you can’t sell are crossbows, air guns, pellets, or targets either.

Even though a lot of these restrictions are understandable because there are extensive state laws restricting them, Shopify still imposes them not just on specific locations, but for every user.

According to Shopify policy “Restricted Items” means:

Certain Firearms

  • an automatic firearm that has not been rendered inoperable
  • a semi-automatic firearm that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine
  • threaded barrel capable of accepting a flash suppressor, sound suppressor or silencer
  • grenade or rocket launcher
  • flash suppressor, sound suppressor or silencer
  • pistol grip (or in the case of a pistol, a second pistol grip)
  • forward pistol grip
  • a semi-automatic firearm that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds
  • firearms without serial numbers
  • ghost guns and 3D printed guns, including blueprints for such guns
  • any part, component or kit for any firearm or gun listed above

Certain Firearm Parts

  • 80% or unfinished lower receivers
  • magazine capable of accepting more than 10 round
  • bump stock
  • grenade or rocket launcher
  • pistol grip (or in the case of a pistol, a second pistol grip)
  • forward pistol grip
  • barrel shroud*
  • thumbhole stock*
  • threaded barrel capable of accepting a flash suppressor, sound suppressor or silencer*
  • flash suppressor, sound suppressor or silencer*
  • rapid fire trigger activator or trigger crank
  • any part, component or kit for a firearm part or including a firearm part listed above

*only for use with a semi-automatic firearm.

Gambling products

  • This category includes lotteries, bidding fee auctions and also sports forecasting or odds making for a monetary or material prize.
  • Also included here are fantasy sports leagues with cash prizes, internet gaming, contests, sweepstakes.
  • Another type of product prohibited is games of chance including legal or illegal forms of gambling, also internet gambling, sweepstakes and contests with a buy-in or cash prize, charity sweepstakes, and raffles for the explicit purpose of fundraising.

Intellectual property or proprietary rights infringement

  • It prohibits the sale, distribution, or access to counterfeit music, movies, software, or other licensed materials without the appropriate authorization from the rights holder.
  • Not okay to try and sell any product or service that directly infringes or facilitates infringement upon the trademark, patent, copyright, trade secrets, proprietary or privacy rights of any third party.
  • Not allowed the use of Shopify intellectual property without express consent from Shopify.
  • Also not allowed the use of the Shopify name or logo, including use of Shopify trade or service marks inconsistent with the Shopify Trademark Usage Guidelines, or in a manner that otherwise harms Shopify or the Shopify brand.
  • It is prohibited any action that implies an untrue endorsement by or affiliation with Shopify.

Regulated or illegal products or services

Cannabis dispensaries and related businesses

Even though market experts say that the cannabidiol (CBD) market will become a $2.5 billion+ industry in the years to come, it’s legal to sell CBD products in both the US and Canada as long as they have a THC content of 0.3% or less. 

THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol which is the cannabinoid that has psychoactive effects.

Because of this fact Shopify has quite the restrictions on the sales of CBD or CBD related products.

Here it is worth mentioning the “Attestation for the Sale of Hemp and Hemp-Derived Products.” This is a form that all US-based CBD sellers must have before they can sell their items on the platform.

This interdiction only applies for US merchants. But if you’re a Canadian merchant, you first have to have a cannabis license to sell your stuff on Shopify. Beside that you must also sign up with the platform’s “Shopify Plus” plan.

Things get a little tricky  if you’re in Europe, where CBD is now legal almost everywhere and that is because Shopify doesn’t have a detailed page about it. All its information on selling CBD products is specific to US merchants.

So make sure you are well informed if you decide to sell CBD because otherwise you’ll likely have issues selling CBD items on Shopify especially if you live outside of the US (or Canada). As a matter of fact even some US merchants have reported having had their hard-earned money placed on hold.

Tobacco and E-Cigarettes

If you have a business that sells anything that has to do with smoking, Shopify won’t accept you as a merchant. 

That is because the company prohibits the sale of tobacco, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, e-juices, and smoking accessories. Pipes, bongs, and vaporizers can’t go on sale via this ecommerce platform either.

Pharmaceuticals

Online pharmacies can’t do business on Shopify, no matter if they’re a legal entity in their country. Shopify also prohibits the sales of nutraceuticals, peptides, research chemicals, and pseudo-pharmaceuticals.

Here are also included any product claiming to have health or therapeutic benefits. 

  • Fake references or ID-providing services, age-restricted goods or services, weapons and munitions, gunpowder and other explosives.
  • Goods or services, the sale of which is illegal under applicable law in the jurisdictions to which your business is targeted or directed.

Sanctions

Use of the Payments Services or use of Shopify Payments in or for the benefit of a country, organization, entity, or person embargoed or blocked by any government, including any person/entity on government sanctions lists.

Certain High-Demand Items

Due to recent events that occurred in the last year Shopify’s prohibited items recently grew to include specific personal protective gear. 

Here are included among others masks, sanitizers, isopropyl alcohol, and disinfecting sprays just to name a few. Because of these new restrictions, the ecommerce platform ended up suspending thousands of stores.

The sad thing is that  along the way even legitimate merchants were affected. Another down side effect was that some users reported that Shopify closed their store even if they didn’t sell masks. 

To make matters worse, many shop owners experienced not only a few hours of downtime, but days of it.

3. Selling of products or services that are otherwise prohibited by law or Shopify financial partners

Aggregation 

  • If your business is engaging in any form of licensed or unlicensed aggregation of funds owed to third parties, factoring, or other activities intended to obfuscate the origin of funds, payment facilitation you are nor allowed on the platform.
  • Also included are any items or products linked to drug paraphernalia: 
  • Along with any equipment designed for making or using drugs, such as bongs, vaporizers, and hookahs.

High-risk businesses

  • Here we have bankruptcy lawyers, remote technical support, psychic services, essay mills, chain letters, door-to-door sales, medical benefit packages, telemedicine and telehealth services.
  • Also included are travel reservation services and clubs services, airlines, cruises, timeshares, circumvention, jamming and interference devices, prepaid phone cards, phone services, telemarketing.
  • If your business is offering substantial rebates or special incentives as an inducement to purchase products or services, telecommunications manipulation equipment.
  • Forwarding brokers, negative response marketing, subscriptions over one year, extended warranties, government grants.
  • If you are an embassy, foreign consulate, or other foreign governments.
  • If you represent a charity institution without proper registration.
  • Credit card and identity theft protection, the use of credit to pay for lending services, any businesses that pose elevated financial risk, legal liability, or violate card network or bank policies.
  • If you represent any business or organization that engages in, encourages, promotes or celebrates unlawful violence or physical harm to persons or property.
  • Also included here are any businesses or organizations that engage in, encourage, promote or celebrate unlawful violence toward any group based on race, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or any other immutable characteristic.

Multi-level marketing

  • Pyramid schemes network marketing and referral marketing programs.
  • Pseudo pharmaceuticals: 
  • Nutraceuticals, pseudo-pharmaceuticals and other products that make health claims that have not been approved or verified by the applicable local and/or national regulatory body.
  • Social media activity: 
  • Sale of Twitter followers, Facebook likes, YouTube views, Instagram followers, and other forms of social media activity.

Substances designed to mimic illegal drugs

Sale of a legal substance that provides the same effect as an illegal drug (like salvia or kratom).

Use of Shopify Payments in a manner inconsistent with its intended use or as expressly prohibited 

  • Use of Shopify Payments principally as a virtual terminal like submitting card transactions by manually inputting card information.
  • If you are processing where there is no bona fide good or service sold or donation accepted.
  • If your business does card testing, evasion of card network chargeback monitoring programs, cross-border acquiring.
  • Sharing cardholder information with another merchant for payment cross-sell product or service.

Video game or virtual world credits 

Sale of in-game currency unless the merchant is the operator of the virtual world.

Shopify also prohibits internet gaming, video game currency, and online game credits. The only ones allowed to sell gaming currency are the actual operators of the game itself.

Depending on your location, you may also not be able to sell games due to age restrictions

4. Business that rely on unfair, predatory, or deceptive practices

Get rich quick schemes 

Here we can find investment opportunities or other services that promise high rewards. Shopify is not a platform for fake gurus.

Mugshot publication or pay-to-remove sites 

Platforms that facilitate the publication and removal of content such as mug shots, where the primary purpose of posting such content is to cause or raise concerns of reputational harm.

No-value-added services 

  • Sale or resale of a service without added benefit to the buyer; resale of government offerings without authorization or added value.
  • Sites that Shopify determine at their sole discretion to be unfair, deceptive, or predatory towards consumers.

Beside products and services the following activities are also prohibited

Child exploitation

You cannot offer goods or services, post or upload Materials that exploit or abuse children, this includes but is not limited to images or depictions of child abuse or sexual abuse, or that present children in a sexual manner.

COVID-19

You are only allowed to  offer goods or services in relation to COVID-19 that will not comply with the Rules of Engagement for the Sale of COVID-19 Related Products.

Harassment, bullying, defamation and threats

You are not allowed to offer goods or services, post or upload materials, that harass, bully, defame or threaten a specific individual.

Hateful content

It is prohibited to use Shopify to promote or condone hate or violence against people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, medical condition,ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, veteran status or other forms of discriminatory intolerance. 

You are also forbidden to use Shopify to promote or support organizations, platforms or people that: firstly promote or condone such hate; or secondly threaten or condone violence to further a cause.

Illegal activities

You cannot offer goods or services, post or upload materials, that contravene, that facilitate or promote activities that contravene the laws of the jurisdictions in which you operate or do business.

Intellectual property

You are not allowed to offer goods or services, post or upload materials, that infringe on the copyright or trademarks of others.

Malicious and deceptive practices

You are not allowed to transmit or transfer malware or host phishing pages. 

You are also forbidden to perform activities, upload or distribute materials that harm or disrupt the operation or other infrastructure of Shopify or others and that includes Shopify’s third party providers. 

You may not use Shopify for deceptive commercial practices or any other illegal or deceptive activities.

Personal, confidential, and protected health information

You may not post or upload any materials that contain data like: personally identifiable information, sensitive personal information, or confidential information like credit card numbers, confidential national ID numbers, or account passwords unless you have the consent from the person to whom the information belongs or who is otherwise authorized to provide such consent. 

You are also not allowed to use Shopify to collect, store, or process any protected health information subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), or any applicable health privacy regulation nor any other applicable law governing the processing, use, or disclosure of protected health information.

Restricted Items

You may not offer goods or services that are, or appear to be, restricted Items.

Self-harm

You cannot offer goods or services, post or upload materials that promote self-harm.

Spam

You may not use Shopify to transmit unsolicited commercial electronic messages.

Terrorist organizations

You may not offer goods or services, post or upload materials that imply or promote support or funding of, or membership in, a terrorist organization.

According to Shopify terms:

The definitions listed below (“AUP Definitions”) apply to Shopify’s Acceptable Use Policy (“AUP”). Shopify reserves the right to update and change the AUP Definitions at any time.

“Materials” means any photo, image, video, graphic, written content, audio file, code, information, data or other content uploaded, collected, generated, stored, displayed, distributed, transmitted or exhibited on or in connection with your Account.

Conclusion

I hope this clarifies what is allowed and not allowed on the Shopify platform. I recommend sending this guide to your clients when they are not sure if Shopify will approve their store.

In some cases as long as you do not have illegal or immoral businesses it is better to try another cloud platform or use an open source platform.