Going on Amazon can sometimes be a tad overwhelming. Not only are there so many choices to pick from, but most of the items are cheap to boot! A wide selection of cheap items plus fast, free shipping is a recipe for retail dominance — something that Amazon grows closer to with each package it ships.
But not all is well in Amazon’s warehouses. Since the company opened up the floodgates to third-party sellers, merchants from all over the world have been able to hawk their goods to Amazon’s massive audience. The only problem: Not every country has the same standards of quality and safety as the U.S. does.
In a shocking turn of events, reporters have uncovered that a wide variety of products for sale on Amazon fail to meet basic safety standards set by the federal government. What’s worse, a huge margin of these offending items is designed and sold for children. Here’s what they discovered, and why ordering from Amazon might be more of a “Russian roulette” than you expect.
Amazon offers thousands of unsafe items from third-party sellers
The federal government sets a number of regulations for packaged goods in order to protect consumers from harm. This includes everything from doses for medicine, standards for plastics and rules to keep toys from being swallowed or poking an eye.
As such, manufacturers in America are expected to adhere to these standards for every item they sell. Companies outside of the U.S., however, are not subject to our laws. This means that some of the products they ship may not be up to the same quality or safety as you’d expect from domestic items.
Amazon, who sells products from merchants around the world, has recently come under fire for this very issue. According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, over 4,000 items were found for sale on Amazon that had “been declared unsafe by federal agencies.”
Worse still, at least 2,000 listings for toys and medication in the report were found to be “missing standard health-risk warning labels.” At least one children’s product was even found to contain trace amounts of lead that exceed federal safety margins.
The latter discovery is especially disturbing, as lead is notoriously dangerous for the health of developing children.
How did these items slip through the cracks? Does Amazon moderate their platform?
Amazon does, in fact, moderate its platform for risky or dangerous items. In fact, the company claimed to have stopped more than 3 billion suspicious items from being sold in the last year alone. However, the company does state that it relies on automation and AI to monitor the items it sells, which led to some “outliers” making their way through the system.
In response to the investigation, Amazon has begun removing the risky items from its listings, but that doesn’t quite take the company off the hook for putting its customers in danger.
Over-reliance on automated moderation is another systemic failure that has hurt many major tech companies and led to massive outbreaks of hackers, data breaches, conspiracy theories and even real-life violence due to threats flying under the radar.
To truly protect the customer, companies like Amazon are going to need to employ far more effective forms of moderation to keep their platforms safe — including input and activity from real people. While we may have effective AI moderators once thinking computers get advanced enough, we aren’t there just yet.
So to keep yourself safe on Amazon, continue to carefully read reviews before making the decision to buy. Just like how “Amazon’s Choice” products may not always be what they seem, the same can be said for anything on the world’s biggest marketplace.