Government Sues Amazon for Not Recalling Some Products

Amazon package
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The federal government is suing Amazon over the retailer’s alleged refusal to recall potentially hazardous products sold on Amazon’s website.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) filed an administrative complaint against Amazon Wednesday, charging that some products sold on Amazon are defective and pose a risk of serious injury or death.

The CPSC contends that Amazon is legally responsible to recall such items sold on its website.

Some products cited in the complaint include:

  • About 24,000 carbon monoxide detectors that were tested by CPSC technical staff and “failed to detect carbon monoxide gas and failed to alarm in its presence”
  • Children’s sleepwear garments that were tested by CPSC staff and failed to meet federal flammability requirements
  • Nearly 400,000 hair dryers sold without required immersion protection devices, which protect consumers against shock and electrocution

According to the CPSC complaint, all of these products went through a service called Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), meaning that they were sold by third parties but shipped to consumers by Amazon.

The complaint aims to force Amazon to “stop selling these products, work with CPSC staff on a recall of the products and to directly notify consumers who purchased them about the recall and offer them a full refund,” the CPSC says.

In a press release, Robert Adler, CPSC acting chairman, said Wednesday:

“Today’s vote to file an administrative complaint against Amazon was a huge step forward for this small agency. But it’s a huge step across a vast desert — we must grapple with how to deal with these massive third-party platforms more efficiently, and how best to protect the American consumers who rely on them.”

The nonprofit consumer organization Consumer Reports praised the CPSC’s action.

For its part, Amazon issued a statement saying it takes “prompt action to protect customers when we are aware of a safety concern,” Bloomberg reports.

In addition, Amazon says it has removed listings for defective products it was able to identify and has offered “to expand our capabilities to handle recalls” for products it sells, as well as those sold by third parties.

The retailer concludes:

“We are unclear as to why the CPSC has rejected that offer or why they have filed a complaint seeking to force us to take actions almost entirely duplicative of those we’ve already taken.”

The CPSC acknowledges that Amazon has addressed concerns on some of the products mentioned in the complaint, but it says such actions are “insufficient.”

Nevertheless, CPSC spokesperson Joe Martyak told Bloomberg that the agency still is hopeful of reaching a resolution with Amazon:

“We’re eager to work with them on this. The door is still open as far as doing a recall on this.”

For now, the CPSC urges consumers to visit SaferProducts.gov to check for recalls prior to buying products. You can also report injuries or incidents related to any purchase you make.

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