Lawmakers are calling on Amazon to purge listings of unsafe or illegal products from its marketplace, following revelations of lax enforcement of its policies governing third-party sellers.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an investigation reporting 4,152 products for sale on Amazon that were deceptively labeled or had been deemed unsafe by federal regulators, or were outright banned.
Now, members of Congress are asking for answers.
“These revelations about Amazon are shocking and deeply troubling,” Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), the co-chair of the Congressional Kids’ Safety Caucus, said in a statement. “The company must immediately remove items that are unsafe, banned or deceptively labeled, and create a plan to increase transparency and product monitoring.”
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In separate letters, Meng and a group of senators asked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos a series of pointed questions about how the company is policing listings on its marketplace, citing the findings of the WSJ report, which included the story of a man who died in a motorcycle accident after his helmet, which had been purchased on Amazon, came off. The helmet had been listed on the site as certified by the Department of Transportation, but was in fact not compliant with U.S. safety standards and had been recalled.
That item, the report noted, had been pulled from Amazon’s marketplace, but thousands of others that could pose a danger or were inaccurately labeled remained available.
“Unquestionably, Amazon is falling short of its commitment to keeping safe those consumers who use its massive platform,” Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wrote in their letter to Bezos.
The senators are asking for responses to their inquiry by Sept. 29, seeking an explanation for why so many prohibited or dangerous but mislabeled products appeared on the site, as well as details on how the company plans to go about cleaning up its listings.
They acknowledge that the products in question are offered by third-party sellers, rather than Amazon itself. However, many of those listings included an “Amazon’s choice” label, they noted, and were shipped from Amazon’s warehouses, which the senators cited as “a seeming endorsement of the products.”
The problematic listings the Journal reported were found in an array of categories, and included many products that had been recalled by the manufacturer, or that had been banned by a federal authority such as Consumer Product Safety Commission or the Food and Drug Administration.
Meng cited one instance in her letter of a child from New York who suffered lead poisoning, likely ingesting the substance from a musical instrument set purchased through Amazon that was later found to contain 411 times the legal limit of lead.
“This is simply unacceptable, and I am appalled that such products are still purchasable on your site,” Meng said.
Meng is asking for a commitment from Amazon to purge all products that have been recalled by their manufacturer, and is asking for details about the company’s plan to monitor products that have been erroneously listed as FDA compliant.