AmazonBasics products exploding, starting fires: report

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Dozens of Amazon products sold under its AmazonBasics line have exploded and started fires, CNN reported Thursday, citing customer reviews and interviews. 

At least 1,500 reviews, covering more than 70 items, have described products exploding, catching on fire, smoking, melting, causing electrical malfunctions or otherwise posing risks, since 2016, according to a CNN analysis of AmazonBasics electronics and appliances on its websites. 

Many customers in the reviews reportedly called items potentially dangerous, using such terms as “hazard” or “fire” to describe them, or calling for the products to be recalled. Some of the customer reviews include images showing the explosions or burnt items. 

About 30 items with three or more of those reviews remain for sale on Amazon’s website, while at least 11 others were no longer for sale at the time CNN published its report.

Amazon confirmed to CNN at least one of these products had been under investigation, but said the company determined they all met its safety standards. 

CNN also sent two damaged AmazonBasics products it received from customers for testing by the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering (CALCE).

A USB cord sent by CNN was too burned for researchers to determine what had gone wrong, but testing on a microwave found a panel design covering the machine’s heating device could result in it catching on fire. The microwave began sparking and smoking as soon as researchers turned it on, according to CNN. The testing was cut short when the lab closed due to COVID-19. 

“There’s a risk in using this machine for sure, and it’s a safety risk because this clearly heated up to the extent a fire could occur,” engineering professor Michael Pecht, who is the founder of CALCE and has previously assisted in government safety investigations, told CNN. “This is more than a reliability problem, this is a potential safety problem.”

An Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill that the company is “confident” the AmazonBasics Microwave “is safe to use.”

“We take several steps to ensure our products are safe including rigorous testing by our safety teams and third party labs. The appliance continues to meet or exceed all certification requirements established by the FDA, UL, FCC, Prop 65, and others for safety and functionality,” the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson also said that “safety is a top priority at Amazon” and that the company takes “a number or proactive steps to ensure this,” including working with third party labs to establish safety and compliance standards, testing products to ensure they pass safety and compliance standard and monitoring customer feedback for any indicators of a safety or quality concern. 

Amazon also posted a blog post Thursday in response to the CNN story about the products, laying out the process the company has in place “to ensure our products are safe.” 

“We’re continuously refining our processes and leveraging new technologies to ensure that AmazonBasics products are safe for their intended use. We want customers to shop our products with confidence, and if there’s ever a concern, you can contact our customer service team and we’ll promptly investigate,” the company said.

Tags Amazon Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering Safety
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