How to Make Sure Your Amazon Purchase Is Safe
You can buy anything on Amazon. But just because you can get an item quickly through an e-commerce retailer does not mean that the product is guaranteed to be safe.
The Wall Street Journal examined 4,152 items for sale on Amazon that were deemed unsafe by federal agencies, deceptively labeled or banned by federal regulators. Among them, they identified 2,000 lists of toys and drugs that lacked the necessary warnings about children’s health risks, and 157 items that Amazon said were banned. It was discovered that 116 products were erroneously listed as approved by the FDA. When WSJ tested 10 baby products purchased on Amazon, four of them failed to meet federal safety standards. The WSJ did not check the listings for counterfeit products, which is an ongoing problem for marketplaces.
As it evolved over its 25-year history, Amazon has expanded its marketplace, with 50% of its business being from third-party sellers. Many of these sellers ship from their warehouses, but a WSJ investigation found that 46% of tested products said they were shipped from Amazon businesses.
At best, uncertainty about the authenticity or safety of the products you find for sale on Amazon can be a problem. In the worst case, it can be deadly. The WSJ cited one incident in which a motorcyclist was killed after his fraudulent helmet flew off in a collision. The rider’s family filed a lawsuit, and although Amazon pleaded not guilty, stating that “it didn’t sell the helmet, but simply listed it on behalf of the seller,” according to the WSJ’s explanation of court documents, it agreed to the $ 5,000.
Amazon posted a blog post in response to a magazine investigation, which states that more than $ 400 million was invested in 2018 alone to ensure product compliance and authenticity. In short, Amazon seems pretty confident in its ability to protect shoppers:
In 2018, our teams and technology proactively blocked over three billion suspicious lists for various forms of abuse, including non-compliance, before they were posted on our store.
As soon as a product becomes available in our store, we continually scan our product listings and updates to find products that might be of concern. Every few minutes, our tools scan hundreds of millions of products, scan over five billion daily changes to product detail pages, and analyze tens of millions of customer reviews submitted weekly for signs of concern and investigate accordingly.
Amazon has removed many of the listings that WSJ points to, but some have reappeared on other sellers’ profiles. And with a catalog of over 350 million listings between his own inventory and third-party sellers, you can only imagine that despite his best efforts, products with problems do slip through the cracks on Amazon.
How to Avoid Potentially Dangerous Items on Amazon
Look for products that sell on Amazon
Items sold by Amazon are items that Amazon bought directly from a manufacturing company for sale, and Amazon requires these brands to have adequate insurance. While former Amazon security and compliance manager Rachel Johnson Greer told the WSJ that you should only buy items sold by Amazon.com for the following categories:
- Anything for kids or babies
- Anything that sticks into the wall
- Anything with a lithium-ion battery
- Anything that touches your skin, such as makeup
- Anything that covers your head or face
To make this determination, look under the buy button for the text that says “Delivered and Sold on Amazon.com.”
Don’t feel like Amazon’s Choice is your best bet.
The Amazon Choice label on product listings is not because the company has thoroughly tested that product. Rather, as the BuzzFeed News report points out, it’s just an algorithm that rewards ads based on customer feedback, prices, and stock levels.
Check reviews on any Amazon Choice list to make sure they reflect the advertised product. Some sellers may redesign ads that receive a selection label to drive more sales for something else.
Be critical about describing items
Greer said the word “approved” is a big red flag that you can see in the product description. “Very few products can be approved in terms of compliance,” Ms. Greer said in an interview with the WSJ. “You are registered with the FDA, or something complies with certain laws or is accredited.”
Another indicator of poor listing quality is commas with no spaces after them, Greer said. This is a common mistake among non-native speakers of English.
Watch out for fake reviews
The more positive reviews a listing has, the higher it will appear in search results, explained Wall Street Journal’s John Emont in a video accompanying the investigation. In this video, Howard Tai, a consultant to Amazon sellers, warned that very short positive reviews cannot be trusted.
Check product reviews
If you shop Product unknown brand or want to buy a product from one of the above categories of high-risk, visit the US government center for reviews of products, successfully called reviewss.gov . The site looks like it hasn’t been updated in about 15 years, but you can browse recent reviews by category or search for a product by name.