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The Seattle Times reports that “three Democratic senators asked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Thursday to explain what the company is doing to prevent third-party sellers from selling dangerous, illegal and misleading products on its platform, and called on him to undertake ‘a sweeping internal investigation of your enforcement and consumer safety policies’.”

The senators - Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) - have asked for a response by the end of the month.

According to the story, “The Senators cite a Wall Street Journal investigation published last week that found some 4,152 items for sale on that federal agencies have banned or deemed unsafe, or that were deceptively labeled. The newspaper’s report cited examples including an investigation by Washington state regulators that found dangerous levels of lead and cadmium in children’s jewelry and school supplies sold by third-party sellers in 2017 and 2018 … This is the latest in growing list of Congressional inquiries into the Seattle-based commerce giant, which, like other enormous tech platforms, is under increased government scrutiny.”

Amazon has said that it “spent $400 million on product safety and compliance in 2018,” and has argued - unsuccessfully in the courts - that when third-party vendors sell products via its marketplace, it ought not be held responsible for those items.
KC's View:
I think this is going to be both an enormous challenge - and opportunity - for Amazon, which ought to be doing everything possible to certify the authenticity of the products sold on its site and, at the same time, assure that these are not items deemed to be unsafe. Amazon, I think, ought to be working on developing some sort of certification system that, among other things, can give it a differential advantage over its competitors.

In a related story, Reuters reports that Amazon “plans to promote helpline phone numbers to customers who query its site about suicide … after searches on its site suggested users search for nooses and other potentially harmful products.” That strikes me as a responsible thing to do, and a step in the right direction.