House Democrats urge Amazon to investigate, recall ‘defective’ products


House Democrats on Wednesday called on Amazon to investigate and recall products that are reportedly causing hazardous situations for consumers. 

House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) wrote to Amazon Wednesday urging an investigation in light of a recent CNN report about AmazonBasics products exploding and starting fires. 

“The new concerns regarding Amazon’s own product line add to mounting questions about Amazon’s priorities and oversight of its sprawling platform,” the Democrats said in the letter. “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.”

Last month’s report from CNN cited at least 1,500 reviews, covering more than 70 items, that described products exploding, catching on fire, smoking, melting, causing electrical malfunctions or otherwise posing risks, since 2016. 

Pallone and Schakowsky called Amazon’s oversight of its own products “grossly inadequate.” 

“Despite starkly worded reviews and even photographs posted by consumers warning of the grave safety dangers experienced while using AmazonBasics products, it appears that Amazon has turned a blind eye to these problems, prioritizing sales at the expense of safety,” they wrote. 

The Democrats also called out Amazon’s decision to often place its “Amazon’s Choice” or “Bestseller” labels on its own products, and slammed the platform for not making information about where the products are manufactured “readily available” on product pages. 

Amazon’s dual role as the operator of the market and a seller in the same marketplace was targeted in an antitrust report released by the House Judiciary panel on Tuesday. The report, which also focuses on Apple, Facebook and Google, states that Amazon’s dual role causes “an inherent conflict of interest” that incentivizes the company to exploit third-party seller data. 

In their letter, Pallone and Schakowsky call on Amazon to detail their product oversight process. They said the company’s process of “simply deleting product listings” raises concerns that it may make it more difficult for safety regulators to investigate product hazards. 

The Democrats are calling on Amazon to respond by Oct. 21 with detailed information about products that have been recalled and the company’s oversight process.  

Asked about the letter, an Amazon spokesperson said “safety is a top priority” at the company.

The spokesperson said Amazon “thoroughly investigates any indicators of safety or quality concerns” and the outcome of investigations vary on a case-by-base basis and may include product removal, adjusting the design of a product or notifying customers to stop using the product. 

“We want customers to shop with confidence and if ever a customer has a concern, they can contact customer service and we will investigate,” the spokesperson added. 

The spokesperson also highlighted a blog post the company released last month, in response to CNN’s report, laying out the process it 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 at the time. 

—Updated at 4:01 p.m.

Tags e-commerce Frank Pallone Jr. Jan Schakowsky Online shopping

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