Avon Products Inc. has received approval to become the first company to resume direct sales in China following an eight-year ban, the Commerce Ministry said Monday.

China banned direct sales in 1998, saying it was hard for consumers to tell the difference between legitimate sales networks and fraudulent pyramid schemes, which were common then.

The government finally issued rules to regulate direct sales in December, clearing the way for Avon and other companies such as cleaning products maker Amway Corp. to apply for licenses.

The companies had been selling their goods through retail outlets.

Avon was allowed to start direct sales of its products last year in Beijing and two other areas in a pilot program.