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Pallone & Schakowsky Demand Amazon Answer for Product Safety Oversights

Oct 7, 2020
Press Release

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) wrote to Amazon CEO and Chairman Jeff Bezos today requesting that he launch an investigation into the safety of Amazon’s product line, AmazonBasics, as well as answer a series of questions pertaining to the company’s product safety and recall practices.

The request comes after a CNN investigation found that many of AmazonBasics’ popular electronic products, such as USB cables and surge protectors, have exploded, caught fire, sparked, melted, or otherwise created hazardous situations at rates well above comparable products. What’s more, many of these products were never recalled and continue to be sold.

“Concerns regarding Amazon’s own product line add to mounting questions about Amazon’s priorities and oversight of its sprawling platform. We call on you to thoroughly investigate this matter, immediately issue recalls of defective products, and take comprehensive corrective action to protect your customers from all dangerous products on your platform, including those from your own private label brands,” wrote Pallone and Schakowsky.

The two Committee leaders expressed concern over Amazon’s “grossly inadequate” oversight of its own products, writing that Amazon has turned a blind eye to safety concerns, even in the face of myriad reviews and photographs from consumers that warn of grave danger.

“Especially troubling is Amazon’s habit of simply deleting product listings, with nothing more than ‘SORRY we couldn’t find that page,’ when it decides to take down a product — burying bad reviews and leaving no way for consumers to verify past purchases or to even learn that the product was deliberately taken down,” the two lawmakers continued. “An untold number of AmazonBasics product listings have reportedly been surreptitiously removed. We are concerned that this practice may make it more difficult for safety regulators to investigate product hazards.”

Pallone and Schakowsky point out that Amazon now owns over 400 brands, but unlike most retailers and manufacturers whose products have been subject to recalls, Amazon’s homepage offers no link directing consumers to where they can learn more information. This is one reason why the lawmakers are concerned that existing reports of product safety issues could represent “just the tip of the iceberg.”

In addition to their request that Bezos initiate an investigation into the safety of AmazonBasics products, Pallone and Schakowsky also request answers to a series of questions, including:

  • What Amazon-owned products are no longer for sale due at least in part to safety concerns?
  • What products – both Amazon-owned and third party – have been officially recalled?
  • What notification does Amazon provide to customers who have purchased products that are later recalled or found to be unsafe?
  • In addition to direct notification, what other kinds of consumer or public outreach does Amazon conduct to ensure consumers properly dispose of, repair or replace an unsafe product?
  • How can consumers find information regarding recalled products? If information is not readily available, why not, and what plans exist to make it available?
  • How can consumers report product safety issues to Amazon?
  • How many staff does Amazon have devoted to ensuring products sold on its platform follow all applicable laws and regulations, and that Amazon is in compliance with obligations to notify the Consumer Product Safety Commission when a product is suspected of being unsafe?

The full letter is available HERE.

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