Amazon is being sued for failing to properly recall dangerous products

As of 2019, Amazon has sold nearly 400,000 hair dryers that could shock someone if they fell into a pool of water, 24,000 carbon monoxide detectors that didn’t detect carbon monoxide, and an unspecified number of “children’s sleepwear” that did not meet flammability requirements, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Now the US security regulator wants to force Amazon to recall those products. This past week, it sued the company in a case that could be the last Holding Amazon accountable for products offered by its third-party sellers. But here’s the thing: Amazon has already recalled these specific products. They are no longer for sale.

Amazon says, and the CPSC acknowledges, that the giant retailer has already stopped selling these products, notified their buyers and issued refunds.

Here is the first statement Amazon has given to: The edge:

Customer safety is a top priority and we take immediate action to protect customers when we become aware of a security issue. As the CPSC’s own complaint acknowledges, for the vast majority of the products in question, Amazon has already immediately removed the products from our store, notified customers of potential security concerns, advised customers to destroy the products, and issued customers full refunds. For the remaining few products in question, the CPSC has not provided Amazon with sufficient information to take action, and despite our requests, CPSC has not responded. Amazon has an industry-leading recall program and we have continued to offer to expand our capabilities to handle recalls for all products sold in our store, whether those products are sold or carried out by Amazon or third-party sellers. It’s not clear to us why the CPSC rejected that offer or why they filed a complaint forcing us to take actions that are almost completely identical to the actions we’ve already taken.

What’s actually going on here? We spoke to the CPSC and it claims there are some major issues with Amazon’s approach to the issue. First, that the CPSC should take Amazon’s word that the recall is being handled and that these dangerous products are actually being destroyed.

In the statement, Amazon says the CPSC has declined its offer to cooperate on the matter, and it appears that could be true — because Amazon’s offer was a “proposed recall promise” that would allow online marketplaces to handle recalls themselves. . This is the proposal Amazon sent to the CPSC on May 6:

The CPSC originally suggested to us that the pledge wasn’t a legally binding agreement either – it could be that it should take Amazon’s word that, for example, it would regularly report on the progress of a recall so that the CPSC can follow up on it. If Amazon has not adequately told customers how to destroy dangerous products or return them for free, the CPSC may not be able to take action.

However, Amazon suggests that this is not true. “Amazon proposed an agreement that would be legally binding, which was developed and agreed with the CPSC staff,” it says. The edge. The retailer says he has worked “hand in hand” with the CPSC throughout this process, using a recall template that “we discussed and agreed with CPSC staff,” and suggests he doesn’t understand why the CPSC is thinking about it. changed .

Neither Amazon nor the CPSC would allow The edge see a copy of their proposed agreement, but Amazon did provide us with copies of the recall notices it sent to customers. An example:

Amazon says there’s a simple reason why you don’t see returns notifications: “Amazon didn’t demand the return of these products before issuing a refund, because CPSC hadn’t asked us to and because such a step is unusual for recalls of these products. product types,” Amazon tells The edge.

However, bigger things are at stake than the recall of these particular products. CPSC’s move is also about finding the authority to enforce recalls on broad online seller marketplaces like Amazon to begin with, marketplaces that weren’t there at the time the laws were written — that way it wouldn’t always be there. having to rely on Amazon’s willingness to comply. CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler alludes to this difficulty in a statement (PDF) issued alongside the complaint: “Any product for which CPSC determines a recall is necessary will require lengthy negotiation to determine whether that retail platform is even subject to our laws.”

The CPSC says its existing statute gives it legal authority when it comes to importers, distributors and manufacturers, and it now argues that Amazon’s handling of its “Fulfilled by Amazon” products makes it clear that it is a distributor under the law .

“We ask Amazon to be responsible for the fulfilled by Amazon products on their site; Amazon does not consider itself legally responsible for these products. We claim that Amazon as a distributor is legally responsible for the safety of these products,” the CPSC said The edge, adding, “We’d like to work with them on details of a recall.”

Amazon, of course, does not want to be categorized as a distributor:

We disagree with CPSC’s claim that we are a distributor under this statute, and our perspective was reinforced by Chairman Adler’s statement. More importantly, Amazon has always believed that we owe it to our customers to provide the safest shopping experience. This is why Amazon has notified customers and covered the cost of refunds when sales partners failed to contact regulators about recalls. We did this for the products listed in the lawsuit, and negotiated an agreement with CPSC employees that would set a new standard for third-party product recalls. It’s not clear to us why the CPSC committee rejected that offer, especially since the staff worked closely with us to develop it.

If it does go to court, the CPSC says it could take many years to complete, with previous forced recalls taking an average of five to seven years. The first step is to take the case to an administrative court (which the CPSC says it doesn’t have), after which Amazon has several avenues to appeal, first to the CPSC itself and then to federal courts.

You can read the CPSC’s full complaint against Amazon below.

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