On January 12, 2017, a 20-year-old man was transported to the hospital. The victim, Austin Parra, had an accident after his chair caught fire while he was sleeping, and he was burned as he carried the chair outside.
The investigators found out that the fire started after the cord that he used to charge his phone burned. The cord experience a short circuit while the phone was charging overnight. The cord had been made by Amazon.
The charger was sold by Amazon's private label line, AmazonBasics, which offers budget-friendly products, including consumer electronics, home goods, household appliances, and office accessories.
AmazonBasics was launched in 2009 and now offers more than 5,000 products. A massive number of their products have become bestsellers, and many have rated the products above four stars, according to Marketplace Pulse research.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the sales increased as consumers stayed at home and brought their essentials online. However, consumers raised serious safety concerns about AmazonBasics items.
Since 2016, more than 1,500 reviews were recorded, and more than 70 items were covered. The reviews described the products as catching on fire on its own, exploding as soon as it is plugged in, causing electrical malfunctions, smoking, melting, and other risks.
Although user error can be a factor of all these incidents, faulty wiring, and defective devices are also the culprit.
According to an electrical engineer that was interviewed by CNN, if an item is well-made and the consumer used it properly, electronics should rarely pose dangers.
Consumers have written in their product reviews that they trusted that Amazon purchases would be safe and that products are well-made because of the brand name.
But even if thousands of complaints about the products were submitted, Amazon provided little to no information regarding the matter.
Amazon's red flag
Amazon has received wide criticism for allowing third-party sellers with dangerous products to do business on the site.
Multiple court rulings have found that the retailer can be held liable for defective items that are sold in its third-party marketplace.
From microwave catching fire, USB cords melting or burning despite no visible wear and tear or overuse to paint on outdoor patio heaters lighting on fire. Consumers claimed that the products malfunctioned as soon as they plugged them in to use them.
The mounting number of complaints shows that there is a defect in the design or manufacturing of items sold on Amazon.
According to Boston University's College of Engineering professor, Mark Horenstein, the incidents reported certainly leads to the suspicion that the product is at fault.
Amazon said that customer reviews are only one indication of a potential issue and that they look at a number of other factors such as sales history, returns, and customer service contacts when assessing potential problems.
The company said in a statement that using customer reviews alone to conclude a product is not safe or imply there is a widespread issue is misleading.
Businesses are required by law to immediately report potentially hazardous items to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission or CPSC so the agency can determine whether an official recall is necessary.
Concerns similar to those detailed in Amazon reviews have been relayed to the CPSC in at least ten reports that specifically mention an AmazonBasics product. The complaints cover at least eight items and date back in 2012.
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