The world’s largest retailer is under fire after a CNN investigation uncovered nearly a dozen dangerous and combustible products. The products, sold under the brand name AmazonBasics, are a line of electronic accessories, household appliances, and office supplies. The AmazonBasics brand, founded in 2009, offers more than 5,000 budget-friendly products.
A day after the CNN report was released, Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Ed Markey of Massachusetts demanded that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos take accountability and recall any products found to put customers at risk.
The letter from the senators mentions the case of Austin Parra, an Amazon customer who was hospitalized with second-degree burns and injuries to his throat after inhaling smoke when his AmazonBasics USB cord was set ablaze, incinerating an office chair while he slept. This was just one of numerous accounts of USB chargers catching fire. There are also some reports of items like batteries spraying chemicals and other flammable liquids.
Along with calling upon CEO Jeff Bezos to recall AmazonBasics products, the senators also called upon him to work with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to conduct a thorough investigation into the products and to establish a stronger protocol for alerting customers that a recall has been issued.
The CNN Customer Review Report
The CNN report finds that more than 10% of all reviews for AmazonBasics products reported a fire, with 200 reports of damage to homes and belongings, including charred walls and fried electronics.
In total, CNN found over 1,500 reviews that described AmazonBasics products as prone to, “exploding, catching fire, smoking, melting, causing electrical malfunctions, or otherwise posing risks.” These reviews were made between 2016 and 2020– an average of over 300 serious malfunctions per year.
Among other accounts of faulty AmazonBasics products, some of the most dangerous malfunctions customers have reported include:
- A surge protector caught fire and was described as a “blowtorch”
- Phone chargers burnt hands and legs
- Paper shredder turned on by itself, caught fire
- Microwave sparked, caught fire, and endangered an 8-year-old child
While user error can be attributed to some of these incidents, it’s believed the vast majority of injuries and electronic malfunctions can be attributed to poor quality of manufacturing or other factors controlled by Amazon.
According to customers, Amazon’s website also tends to promote AmazonBasics products on the site, despite poor reviews and reports of malfunctions. In the CNN report, customers said they trusted AmazonBasics products, believing they would be safe since they were flagged as “Amazon’s Choice,” and were located near the top of the page when customers searched for certain products. According to CNN, some AmazonBasics products were pulled from the site after the CNN report was released.
Wall Street Journal Investigates in 2019
In August of 2019, the Wall Street Journal released a similar report regarding 4,152 products for sale on Amazon.com that were “declared unsafe by federal agencies” and “deceptively labeled or banned by federal regulators.”
In one instance for this reporting, a 23-year-old man tragically died after his helmet fell off during a motorcycle crash. The helmet claimed to be U.S. Transportation Department certified, yet it didn’t meet federal safety standards and had been recalled.
Other products on the site claimed to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration or other federal agencies though they were not. This included cosmetics, pain relievers, unregistered pesticides, among other items.
To make matters worse, while the products in the 2019 WSJ investigation were not made by Amazon, these products often received the “Amazon’s Choice” label, a potential endorsement of the product being shipped out of Amazon warehouses.
Just as in the letter written after the CNN investigation, Senators Richard Blumenthal, Robert Menendez, and Edward Markey co-wrote a formal request to CEO Bezos to review and recall dangerous products found during the WSJ investigation.
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In response to the growing criticism about AmazonBasics products, the company writes: “we want customers to shop with confidence and if ever a customer has a concern, they can contact customer service and we will investigate.”
Amazon concludes their statement urging anyone with concerns about their products to reach out to their customer service team and communicate any issues with faulty or malfunctioning products.
Despite the statement, Amazon has not admitted fault or recalled any AmazonBasics products from their site.
We Can Help
Manufacturers and sellers of products, especially electronics, have a responsibility to make sure those products are safe to use—this should be their top priority. Amazon assumes this responsibility with every product they sell. When companies don’t properly manufacture devices, or when they don’t test the devices for quality assurance, customers may face the consequences, and these consequences can be fatal.
If you were injured by a defective product, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. Contact our product liability attorneys for a free case evaluation. We don’t get paid unless we win a settlement for your case.