Earlier this year, Amazon was caught using third-party reseller data to pick product categories to target for its Amazon’s Choice line of products, despite claiming to never engage in this practice. Now, the results of a months-long safety investigation suggests at least some of the company’s own AmazonBasics products have serious safety problems and that Amazon has not been diligent in fixing them.
A new report by CNN steps through multiple instances of AmazonBasics products failing in spectacular fashion, some of which resulted in injury or significant property damage. After reviewing thousands of reviews published since 2016, the publication concluded that at least 1,500 reviews covering more than 70 products have discussed instances of products exploding, catching fire, melting, smoking, causing electrical malfunctions, or otherwise posing a risk.
This is expected to some extent and could be judged as no more than a reflection on the popularity of AmazonBasics products. But CNN found more than 30 items that were still on sale at Amazon after three or more customers posted reviews indicating the product was a fire risk and should be recalled. Amazon removed 11 more products during the course of CNN’s investigation but has not yet taken action regarding the other 30. The problems seem a little worse than your average failures:
The same panel within a microwave catching fire, USB cords melting or burning despite no visible wear and tear or overuse, and paint on outdoor patio heaters lighting on fire. Consumers alleged items malfunctioned the first time they plugged them in. Others said electronics were not in use when they began malfunctioning.
Ship enough USB cables and you’ll eventually ship a bad one, but shipping a heater with flammable paint isn’t the same kind of screw-up at all. The correct amount of flammability your space heater should have is zero. If you can’t find a way to make the paint not catch fire, don’t paint it. Bare metal is an infinitely preferable finish to “carbon black”.
CNN’s reporting makes it clear that complaints and concerns about this brand of Amazon products have been building for some time. I’ve been taken in by the AmazonBasics stamp myself, and while I’ve never had the kinds of problems reported in the CNN story, I stopped buying AmazonBasics iPhone cables because they had wildly variable lifespans and failed quickly enough that any savings from using cheaper cables was eaten up in needing more of them.
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