Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is a Washington, D.C. law firm providing chemical and chemical product stakeholders unparalleled experience, judgment, and excellence in matters relating to TSCA, and other global chemical management programs.

By Lynn L. Bergeson , Lisa M. Campbell, and Carla N. Hutton
 
Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, wrote to Amazon Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chair Jeff Bezos on October 7, 2020, requesting that he launch an investigation into the safety of Amazon’s product line, AmazonBasics, and answer a series of questions pertaining to the company’s product safety and recall practices.  The Committee’s October 7, 2020, press release notes that the request comes after a CNN investigation found that many of AmazonBasics’ electronic products “have exploded, caught fire, sparked, melted, or otherwise created hazardous situations at rates well above comparable products.”  According to the press release, many of these products were never recalled and continue to be sold.
 
In addition to their request that Bezos initiate an investigation into the safety of AmazonBasics products, Pallone and Schakowsky also seek answers to a series of questions, including:

  • What Amazon-owned products are no longer for sale due at least in part to safety concerns?
     
  • What products -- both Amazon-owned and third party -- have been officially recalled?
     
  • What notification does Amazon provide to customers who have purchased products that are later recalled or found to be unsafe?
     
  • In addition to direct notification, what other kinds of consumer or public outreach does Amazon conduct to ensure consumers properly dispose of, repair, or replace an unsafe product?
     
  • How can consumers find information regarding recalled products? If information is not readily available, why not, and what plans exist to make it available?
     
  • How can consumers report product safety issues to Amazon?
     
  • How many staff does Amazon have devoted to ensuring that products sold on its platform follow all applicable laws and regulations, and that Amazon is in compliance with obligations to notify the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) when a product is suspected of being unsafe?

The letter requests a response no later than October 21, 2020.
 
The letter and request for answers to the questions noted above are another indication of the pressure certain Members in Congress are putting on Amazon to ensure the safety of the products the platform hosts.  Amazon is under increasing scrutiny by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in this regard, as reported in our February 16, 2018, and June 17, 2020, blog items, and this Congressional inquiry seems more of the same.  These efforts will almost certainly cause more pressure on product manufacturers to ensure the products they offer for sale on Amazon are compliant.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On April 26, 2018, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt was grilled by Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment at a hearing titled The Fiscal Year 2019 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Budget.  The budget was plainly not the primary topic as the House Committee Members covered a lot of ground.  Pruitt fielded many questions and comments from House Democrats on his alleged ethical lapses regarding spending, security details, retaliation towards EPA employees who reportedly questioned his practices, and concerns about a hostile work environment.  Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed concern over the installation of a secure phone booth in his office.  His opening statement addressed these criticisms only vaguely, stating that they are merely a distraction and an attempt to “attack and derail the President’s agenda and these administration’s priorities.”  There were also questions concerning the delay of the proposed rule banning the use of methylene chloride, and criticism regarding EPA’s recent proposed rule to strengthen transparency in regulatory science (the “secret” Science Rule). 

No attempt is made here to summarize the lengthy hearing.

Pruitt’s testimony statement is available here.  It does not contain information on the Science Rule, but it briefly references the implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in a section entitled “Ensuring the Safety of Chemicals in Commerce.”

More information on the many TSCA implementation initiatives is available on our TSCA Reform News & Information webpage, as well as the TSCAblogTM.  A summary of Pruitt’s testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is available in our blog item “Pruitt Addresses Legacy Issues, TSCA Implementation in Oversight Hearing.”