The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is seeking to force Amazon.com Inc. to recall hundreds of thousands of potentially hazardous products sold on its website.
The CPSC says it is suing the company over the products it asserts are defective and pose a serious risk of injury or death to consumers.
The products included 24,000 carbon monoxide detectors that failed to go off, around 400,000 hair dryers that do not have required protection against shock and electrocution, and "numerous" children's sleepwear garments that could catch fire, according to a 24-page administrative complaint filed on Wednesday by a 3-1 vote.
“Today’s vote to file an administrative complaint against Amazon was a huge step forward for this small agency,” said Robert Adler, acting CPSC chairman, in a statement. “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 regulator said although Amazon had taken unspecified actions for some of the products, it was not enough.
Amazon said in a statement that it serves only as an intermediary for other retailer’s sales and cannot be held liable for defective products.
The company added it has "an industry-leading recalls program" and that it is not clear why the CPSC had "filed a complaint seeking to force us to take actions almost entirely duplicative of those we’ve already taken."
The company said it had removed "the vast majority" of the products in question from its store and provided full customer refunds.
Meanwhile, William Wallace, Consumer Reports’ manager of safety policy, said that the decision by CPSC to take action against Amazon is welcome.
“Amazon is not above the law, and safety must come first. It shouldn’t matter whether someone is shopping in-person or online, and on Amazon, it shouldn’t matter whether someone is buying something directly from the company or from a third-party seller," Wallace said. "People expect the products they buy for their homes to be safe and not leave them or their families at risk."