Amazon, as a brand facing consumers, is one of the most trusted institutions in America (second only to the military), which drives home how well the company's e-commerce system works. Amazon is not a singular institution. Not really. The overwhelming majority of merchandise sold on the site is not sold at all by Amazon, but by thousands of third parties, often close to anonymous sellers.
And as it happens, many of them are fetching potentially dangerous products such as Amazon itself conducting a flawed job politicization.
A Wall Street Journal study today found over 4,100 products available on Amazon – a site that accounts for half of all US-based e-commerce – were "declared unsafe by federal agencies, misleadingly labeled, or is prohibited by federal regulators. " Among these were over 150 products Amazon claimed to have already banned, but could be purchased anyway and a child's toy containing a safe amount of lead. Nearly half were reportedly stored in Amazon's own department store.
The dangers of potentially giving lead lead poisoning are self-evident, but as Amazon is flooded with crap products, a number of less obvious dangers arise. The magazine used the example of Albert Stokes, who bought an alleged transport of department-certified motorcycle helmets on site. He was hit and killed by a pickup in 2014. DoT recalled the helmet last month and declared it incompatible, although it was still available for sale on Amazon until recently. The company reportedly settled with Stokes' mother for $ 5,000, and admitted no wrongdoing.
Had a physical store still owned this particular helmet, it is likely that it would have been found responsible. However, similar to other technology companies, Amazon has long relied on its status as a platform to isolate it from wrongdoing, claiming to only facilitate the vast majority of transactions rather than bear individual responsibility for what is sold – despite earning a commission on these transactions.
Legally, orders have long been in Amazon's favor, though recently the tide has begun to turn. A third court decision in July found that Amazon could be held responsible for the sale of defective products. (The case, which concerns a customer who was blinded in one eye by a purportedly wrong dog leash, will be decided in another court.) The 6th Appeal Greenlit also included a case involving a hoverboard purchased through Amazon that caught fire, and forced two children to escape their burning home by jumping from a window on other floors before the fire destroyed "all of their belongings," according to the Associated Press. The Ohio Supreme Court also decided this week to consider a wrongful death suit regarding a teenager who died after consuming caffeine powder prior to training, purchased through Amazon.
In response to the journal's findings, Amazon compiled a blog post addressing the security measures it is currently implementing to prevent these products from reaching consumers. "We invest significant resources to protect our customers and have built robust programs designed to ensure that products offered for sale in our store are safe and compliant," the company wrote. After being notified of the many items in question, a little over half "had the wording changed or taken down," according to the journal.
Read the full report of the journal here.