A federal regulator has sued Amazon in what it said is an effort to "force" the online retailer into recalling hazardous products sold on the site. But Amazon said it had already pulled most all of the products in question ahead of the lawsuit, and handled the concerns raised by the agency.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) filed the lawsuit, acknowledging that Amazon has made some efforts to protect consumers on some of the items it flagged, but arguing that the company's actions were "insufficient."
"Today’s vote to file an administrative complaint against Amazon was a huge step forward for this small agency," acting CPSC Chairman Robert Adler said 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 complaint charges that the specific products are defective and pose a risk of serious injury or death to consumers and that Amazon is legally responsible to recall them," a press release from the agency reads. "The named products include 24,000 faulty carbon monoxide detectors that fail to alarm, numerous children’s sleepwear garments that are in violation of the flammable fabric safety standard risking burn injuries to children, and nearly 400,000 hair dryers sold without the required immersion protection devices that protect consumers against shock and electrocution."
The CPSC wrote in the complaint that after Amazon was notified by the regulator of the hazards presented by the products, the company pulled the Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASINs) for some of the products, and "also unilaterally, and without CPSC involvement or input concerning the content of the notices or its other actions, notified consumers who purchased certain of the Subject Products that they could present a hazard." The CPSC also acknowledged that Amazon offered a refund to those purchasers in the form of an Amazon gift card.
But Amazon said it already pulled the products in question from their site, issued refunds, issued warnings and added that it agrees hazardous products shouldn't be sold – saying it acted swiftly on the issues.
"Customer safety is a top priority and we take prompt action to protect customers when we are aware of a safety concern," Amazon told FOX Business in a statement. "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."
The statement continued, "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. Amazon has an industry-leading recalls program and we have further offered to expand our capabilities to handle recalls for all products sold in our store, regardless of whether those products were sold or fulfilled by Amazon or third-party sellers. 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."
The complaint states that the agency wants Amazon to stop selling the products noted in the lawsuit, issue notices to impacted consumers that are approved by the CPSC, issue a press release approved by the watchdog, refund the price to consumers and destroy any of the flagged products that are returned along with monthly progress reports to CPSC, among other requests.
The action to file the lawsuit against Amazon was approved in a 3-1 vote.