An Experiment in Product Safety: the Results are In

Well, the results from my experiment came in. Rather unsurprisingly, they all failed in some way or another. Some failed worse than others.

In later posts I’ll go over the specifics of the kinds of failures these were, to help anyone who’s currently selling products similar to these. But the main point is this – I went looking because I was a snit. I’m annoyed about some of the questions and issues I am facing when working with some prospects. I had just been to a show where I had to explain what compliance is, for what felt like the millionth time.

If I can find these products so easily based on their characteristics, so can Amazon – and so can your competitors.

I cannot emphasize this last point enough – if your product is found to be completely unsafe, then you could be out of business if that product is crucial enough to your business. What about your whole lineup being noncompliant? Could you handle a removal and relabeling effort for all of your inventory at FBA?

Here’s a short list of the approaches we’ve had to take or clients had to take with noncompliant product:

  • Work with the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) to release containers (yes, plural) to a labeling company and add a tracking label to all products
  • Remove all products from Amazon (usually in the hundreds, some clients had 1000+ units at Amazon) and relabel/sticker the required information on the package
  • Work with CPSC to dispose of an entire container of product
  • Work with legal counsel to run a product recall
  • Repackage entire product into an overbox with correct labeling on the outside of the box
  • Open the products and re-kit with the fixed component

You do not want this happening to you.

These are all painful and expensive, and it’s far more efficient to do the work up front than to try to fix the problems that can occur later. Prevention isn’t sexy – there’s no disaster to rescue your business from. But I can tell you that I would much rather NOT make my hefty reinstatement fees and work with you in advance. I’d rather not charge our “emergency services” price and worry with you as your livelihood becomes endangered. This is part of why we have a “Done for You” service, so you don’t have to worry about this stress when you’re launching your own PL business.

So without further ado – here are the results with proof of purchase:

Product #1:
Kidolino Magnetic Drawing Board for Kids with 2 Stamps and 1 Pen, Travel Size

Failed for product labeling – didn’t contain manufacturer/importer name or address, didn’t have country or origin, and age grading/warning label was on the wrong panel of the box.

Product #2:
Jumbo Counting Bears with Stacking Cups by Kids Korner – Rainbow Matching Color Sorting Toys for Toddlers with ( 54 pc with Travel Tote )

Failed for product labeling – didn’t contain manufacturer/importer name or address, didn’t have country or origin. No tracking label was found. It also failed for Phthalates (DEHP) content in the plastic storage bag – 7.1% of the plastic was DEHP. This is not a shipment/packaging bag (which has its own compliance requirements) but a bag expected to carry the products throughout its usable life, and expected to be used and held by a child regularly.

Product #3:
3D Puzzle Creative Handmade Assemble Jigsaw Toys Pink Princess Castle (35 Pieces)

Failed for product labeling – did’t contain a manufacturer/importer name or address or country of origin. No tracking label was found. Age grading also not found. Recommended age grading 5+.

Product #4:
ROBOTIME Wooden Alphabet Peg Puzzle Board Easy-Hold Jigsaw Puzzle Toy ABC for Toddlers Preschool

Failed for product labeling – it didn’t contain a manufacturer/importer name or address, didn’t have country or origin, and there was no warning label present. This is important because the letter “I” actually failed for small parts, meaning it’s a choking hazard as is.  

Product #5:
Kiartten Manual Citrus Press Juicer Top Rated Premium Quality Metal Lemon Lime Squeezer-FDA Approved

Failed for product labeling – it did’t contain a manufacturer/importer name or address. It also failed for containing 257 ppm lead in a metal substrate. The requirement is 100 ppm or less (there was 15 ppm in the surface coating, which has a limit of 90 ppm).

Product #6:
Depp’s Silicone Ice Cube Trays (Set of 2) Sphere Ice Ball Maker with Lid & Large Square Molds, Reusable BPA Free FDA Approved Keep Your Drink Chilled for Hours Without Diluting It

Failed for product labeling – it didn’t contain a manufacturer/importer name or address and did not have country or origin.

Product #7:
Lunch Box for Kids Adults,Leak-Proof FDA-Approved Microwave Dishwasher Freezer Safe with Lids All-in-One 2 Layers Meal Prep Bento Food Storage Containers (Pink)

Failed for product labeling – it didn’t contain a manufacturer/importer name or address. No tracking label was found.

Product #8:
Angels UP Double-Side Leash Design Pacifier Clip for Baby, 4-Pack

Failed for product labeling – it didn’t contain a manufacturer/importer name or address or country of origin. No tracking label was found.

Product #9:
Pacifier Clip Girl, BPA Free Silicone Teether, Set of 2 (Petal Pink/Soft Gray/White)

Failed for product labeling – it didn’t contain a manufacturer/importer name or address or country of origin. No tracking label was found.

Product #10:
Premium Quality Baby Pacifier Clip (4 Pack) for Boys and Girls! . Fun and Cute ,Extra Safe, Double-sided Baby Pacifier Leash Designs.

Not yet shipped, so no results yet available.

So there you have it. Literally in 20 minutes, I was able to find a group of 10 products, 9 of which were tested. There were three major failures – lead in substrates, small parts/choking hazard, and CPSIA pthalates content (DEHP). Plus tracking label failures on the children’s products – a failure that will prevent your product from being imported, if CPSC catches it. And FPLA (Fair Packaging and Labeling Act) and Country of Origin labeling failures.

All of these sellers are responsible for the compliance and safety of the products that they produce or import or private label for sale in the US.

But Amazon has made it REALLY easy for unscrupulous or ignorant people to import products without appropriate compliance.

You might think that not including the importer/distributor information is no big deal. But it exists because if something does go wrong, and that seller isn’t on Amazon anymore, who are you going to reach out to if something goes wrong?

These laws are in place to protect consumers, and ignoring or flagrantly violating them is not a “Customer Obsessed” approach to running a Marketplace.

I was an Amazon employee for about 8 years total. Amazon is important to me in many ways. I am a Prime member, and I have a Fire stick. Every generation of Kindle is in my house, and all of Amazon’s apps are on my phone. I love the people I worked with at Amazon, and how hard we worked to keep customers safe.

But this lack of care for the healthy and safety of customers, while routinely shutting down sellers and listings for a variety of other infractions is baffling.

Why is a copyright violation more important to Amazon to enforce than the phthalate content of your child’s toys?

Or lead in your cooking utensils?

Amazon’s leadership principles state:

Customer Obsession
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

Insist on the Highest Standards
Leaders have relentlessly high standards – many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving their teams to deliver high quality products, services and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

I can only hope that my experiment helps to show some major flaws in how Amazon appears to value customer safety.

I don’t view this as “customer obsessed”.

The highest standards the company can meet, are not being met.

I am always careful in what I buy and how I buy it because I know this is rampant across the website.

But how many unscrupulous or ignorant sellers are trading on the customer trust that Amazon has built up to sell toys or household goods that poison them and their children? Or can cause them to accidentally choke to death? Or burn their house down?

In future posts, I’ll go into the details of: 1) what phthalates are and why they’re banned federally in anything for children as well as on the California Proposition 65 known reproductive harm list; 2) the hazards of lead and how various agencies set policies around elimination of lead and other heavy metals in consumer goods; and 3) how CPSIA came to be, how it works, and how the CPSC protects you and your children from unreasonable risk of harm.

At the end of the day, I expect better of Amazon.

I know Alibaba is full of knockoffs, cheap garbage, noncompliant generic junk, and plenty more that is illegal to sell in the US. I also know that there’s plenty of risk buying on eBay: you know you’re buying from some other seller, and you act with according caution.

But on Amazon, it’s different. Customers TRUST Amazon, and for good reason. Amazon has worked hard to gain and maintain that trust for years.

And sellers are benefiting from those efforts, and many sellers are benefiting unfairly.

We have clients who can hardly compete in some niches because of the flagrant disregard for US law and customer safety.

It’s hard to be the good guy when the majority around you are gaming the system – at customer expense.

Do you have an Amazon PL brand? Are you worried it might not be compliant? Maybe you have competitors you’re pretty sure are cheating based on their price and page and would like to investigate. Let us know! We’d love to help.
About the Author
I got my first job at Amazon because of my German language skills from my Master’s in History. Take that, people who said I’d never get a good job with my liberal arts degree! I soon learned that I’m not good at taking orders and started my MBA coursework at Seattle University.

I worked at Amazon for 8 years, as a liaison for law enforcement in Fraud/Transaction Risk, a quality and compliance manager in Product Compliance for Amazon Brands and imports globally, and lastly, managing hardware for Website Availability. I love the flexibility that working for clients on Amazon rather than for Amazon affords me.

In my not significant free time, I do fiber crafts such as spinning, crocheting, and embroidery, and I have been in a community band since 2009, playing French Horn, Trombone, or Euphonium depending on the band’s needs that season.

4 thoughts on “An Experiment in Product Safety: the Results are In”

  1. Nice Read! I’m curious though, does every single product require this? It seems these are mostly all “consumer” products. For example, home hardware, imagine the nuts, bolts, fittings, sold at Home Depot, they’re increasingly available on Amazon. Are these subject to the same product safety rule pertaining to “labeling” ?

    • Hi Pete, all consumer products are required to have basic labeling – FPLA or UPLR are the relevant regulations there – as far as regulatory or safety product testing, that is dependent on product. For nuts and bolts, you are required to meet “truth in advertising” claims – so if you claim a certain stainless steel alloy, you need to be selling that one, or if the product is used in construction where a certain strength is required, and the bench falls apart because it was too much aluminum and not the stated quality of stainless, then you could be held liable for any injuries that result. Very few products are completely free of potential liability to protect yourself from. 🙂

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