We Need Washington to Put Consumer Safety Ahead of Amazon

The COVID-19 pandemic changed our shopping habits overnight, forcing many of us to turn to online platforms for our needs. While this newfound convenience has had substantial benefits, it also has resulted in an emerging threat to consumer safety. Dangerous and unsafe merchandise has flooded online marketplaces, as criminals exploit the pandemic and lack of transparency online to dupe consumers.

The problem sits with a lack of verification on e-commerce platforms like Amazon. Since online marketplaces fail to properly vet independent merchants — I mean why take time to do that when there are billions of dollars to be made peddling counterfeits — criminals are able to sell knockoffs, stolen goods, defective and unsafe merchandise without any fear of retribution. Hiding behind a fake screen name, culpability is easy to dodge. For innocent consumers, this is not only a financial scam, but it often poses a serious threat to health and safety.

For example, knockoff versions of baby products can be easily found on third-party marketplaces such as Amazon. Infants have been placed directly in harm’s way by listings for counterfeit car seats and expired baby formula. Any parent should be deeply concerned about whether they might be unwittingly letting these products into their homes.

Lawmakers have recognized this issue for what is: a mounting threat to the well-being of American consumers nationwide. Fortunately, the INFORM Consumers Amendment was recently introduced as part of the Endless Frontier Act. It would mandate e-commerce platforms verify their independent sellers, and give consumers legitimate contact information if they suspect they’ve been deceptively sold counterfeit or stolen items. While it’s a common-sense solution, online marketplaces are predictably waging an aggressive campaign against the proposed legislation.

The PASS Coalition, funded by many of the largest online marketplaces has shamefully claimed that the legislation would be a detriment to privacy and threaten minority- and women-owned businesses. This is a baseless scare tactic, made all the more egregious given the harmful goods that are often peddled online and deceptively marketed to women and minority consumers. The legislation has strict privacy safeguards to ensure that legitimate businesses are protected, while giving consumers the tools to fight back against dangerous and counterfeit products aimed at their families.

The reality is that online marketplaces like Amazon are making windfall profits off the sale of unsafe merchandise — and it comes at a considerable cost to you and your family. Lawmakers have a responsibility to protect consumers from the sale of these products. Fortunately, the INFORM Act Amendment represent a clear and logical place for Washington to start. Here’s hoping Congress puts the interests of families ahead of tech giants peddling fake masks, bogus vaccine cards and all sorts of dangerous and worthless junk.

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