The lawless land of Amazon listings is filled with unsafe and banned products

According to a recent investigation, Amazon’s marketplace is filled with more than 4k items that have been declared unsafe or even banned.


August 26, 2019

Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A recent Wall Street Journal investigation found 4,152 items for sale on Amazon that have been declared unsafe, mislabeled, and even banned by federal regulators.

Listings for 2k of these — including toys and medications — did not warn of health risks for children, and 157 were items Amazon claims to have banned for safety reasons. 

Why is the ’Zon such a Prime place for problems?

Amazon once managed its own supply and distribution. But starting in 2001, Bezos and pals outlined a plan to incentivize third-party vendors to offer products at low prices. 

By 2018, 60% of merchandise sold came from 2.5m merchants.  

Amazon says it uses an automated tool to scan millions of products every few minutes, and that it blocked more than 3B items last year. But bad goods still make it through.

How did this fly for so long?

Amazon says it’s a forum — not a retailer — and as such is protected by the Communications Decency Act. 

However, courts have begun to disagree, and Amazon has paid fines and settlements … albeit without admitting wrongdoing. 

Meanwhile, some lawmakers are looking to beef up regulations on tech giants. But the question remains: Can Amazon control its platform?

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