Since 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 actually detect carbon monoxide, and an unspecified number of “children’s sleepwear garments” that didn’t meet flammability requirements; according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Now, the US safety regulator wants to force Amazon to recall those products.
This past week, it sued the company in a case that could be the latest to hold Amazon accountable for products offered by its third-party sellers. But here’s the thing: Amazon has already recalled these specific products.
They’re no longer for sale.
Amazon says, and the CPSC acknowledges, that the giant retailer has already stopped selling these products; already notified their buyers, and already handed out refunds.
Here’s the initial statement Amazon provided to The Verge:
Customer safety is a top priority and we take prompt action to protect customers when we are aware of a safety concern. As the CPSC’s own complaint acknowledges, for the vast majority of the products in question, Amazon already immediately removed the products from our store, notified customers about potential safety concerns, advised customers to destroy the products, and provided customers with full refunds. For the remaining few products in question, the CPSC did not provide Amazon with enough information for us to take action and despite our requests, CPSC has remained unresponsive. Amazon has an industry-leading recalls program and we have further offered to expand our capabilities to handle recalls for all products sold in our store, regardless of whether those products were sold or fulfilled by Amazon or third-party sellers. 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.
What’s actually going on here?
We spoke to the CPSC, and it claims there’s a few big problems with the way Amazon’s handling the issue.
Primarily, that the CPSC would have to take Amazon’s word that the recall is being handled; and that these dangerous products are actually being destroyed.
In the statement, Amazon says that the CPSC rejected its offer to work together on this issue, and it seems like that might be true; because Amazon’s offer was a “proposed recalls pledge” that would let online marketplaces handle recalls themselves.
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The CPSC originally suggested to us that pledge wasn’t a legally binding agreement; either — it might have to take Amazon’s word that it would, for instance, provide regular reports about the progress of a recall so the CPSC can follow up.
If Amazon didn’t adequately tell customers how to destroy dangerous products; or how to ship them back at no charge, the CPSC might not be able to take action.
Amazon suggests that’s not true, though. “Amazon proposed an agreement that would be legally binding; and that was developed and agreed upon with the CPSC staff,” it tells The Verge.
The retailer says it worked “hand-in-hand” with the CPSC through this entire process; used a recall template that “we discussed and agreed upon with the CPSC staff;” and suggests it doesn’t understand why the CPSC changed its mind.
Neither AMZN nor the CPSC would let anyone see a copy of their proposed agreement; but Amazon did give us copies of the recall notices it sent to customers.
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