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US consumer agency sues Amazon over unsafe counterfeits

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has filed a complaint Amazon in an attempt to hold the e-commerce company responsible for counterfeit products sold through its marketplace – even if they are being sold by third-party sellers.

The suit is focusing on the e-commerce giant's "fulfilled by Amazon"  (FBA) service, where items are sold by a third party but use Amazon storage, packing and delivery resources and are dispatched from an Amazon fulfilment centre.

"Consumers who purchase FBA consumer products on Amazon.com may reasonably believe they are purchasing the products from Amazon," says the CPSC's complaint, which describes a number of hazardous counterfeit products purchased via the FBA route.

The document describes numerous items children's sleepwear that did not meet fire safety standards, 24,000 ineffective carbon monoxide detectors, and 400,000 hair dryers that failed immersion protection testing.

CPSC said that it brought the products to the attention of Amazon, which warned purchasers and offered a refund in the form of an Amazon gift card credited to their account, but that was "insufficient to remediate the hazards" posed by the products.

The CPSC previously attempted to convince Amazon to follow federal regulations for removing dangerous products off its market, but says the company refused to acknowledge that it had the authority to compel them into removing them – a position challenged in the lawsuit.

Federal law bars any person from selling products subject to a publicly announced voluntary recall by a manufacturer or a mandatory recall ordered by the CPSC, according to the agency.

The complaint is "a huge step forward for this small agency…but it's a huge step across a vast desert," according to CPSC acting chairman Robert Adler.

He added: "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."

Consumer advocacy group Buy Safe America Coalition said in a statement on the lawsuit that it follows a court order in May that was necessary to prevent Amazon from selling counterfeit facemasks because it had relisted its own supply of the products three times after agreeing to stop.

It also slammed Amazon's attempts to argue it should not be held liable for defective products sold on its marketplace, in the wake of a suit involving a toddler who suffered permanent damage when she ingested a battery that popped out of a knockoff remote control.

"This lawsuit is a stark reminder to lawmakers and consumers that Amazon's approach to marketplace transparency continues to fall short," according to Michael Hanson, a spokesperson for.

"With Amazon's dominant position in online shopping, their actions – or lack thereof – are simply unacceptable," he added.

Amazon's response to the lawsuit runs as follows:

"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.

The company also said it made an offer to CPSC to expand its capabilities to handle recalls for products.

"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," it added.


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