It’s no secret that Amazon’s marketplace is overrun with garbage—literal or otherwise—and that the company struggles and often fails to manage its own massive marketplace that lumps legitimately trustworthy brands and products in with third-party sellers. Amazon’s latest challenge appears to be regulating a burgeoning market for products feeding off of flu and coronavirus fears—including products that claim to “kill” them.
In an email obtained by CNBC, Amazon has been contacting third-party merchants about products that make extraordinary and unapproved claims relating to coronavirus, as a strain that originated in Wuhan, China continues to spread globally. In that email, Amazon informs a seller that the company removed from its store an item “identified as a face mask or related product that makes unapproved medical marketing claims regarding coronavirus or the flu.”
The email cites federal regulations on products making unapproved medical claims in their marketing and further states that its own rules bar “the listing or sale of products that are marketed as unapproved or unregistered medical devices.” According to CNBC, users have also posted about receiving these warnings in seller groups on Facebook.
Disturbingly, CNBC also found multiple live listings for disinfectants that were still up on Amazon’s marketplace as of this writing, several of which claimed the item “kills coronavirus.” Moreover, Gizmodo found that simply searching “kills coronavirus” or “kill coronavirus” turns up numerous products with these claims in their titles, so they’re not exactly needles in a haystack.
Amazon did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the seller notice, its ongoing response to the products, and items that remained on its site at the time of publication.
As of this week, there have been roughly 2,100 deaths and roughly 76,000 confirmed cases of the virus since the outbreak began late last year. Director of the Centre for the National Centre for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Dr. Nancy Messonnier said during a recent call with journalists that this strain of the “virus represents a tremendous public health threat.”
That Amazon is conveniently benefitting from the sale of products in its marketplace making false or misleading claims about their ability to protect against or treat coronavirus is not exactly surprising but is concerning and potentially dangerous, particularly given an already bad situation with the spread of misinformation about the virus.
As if there were a need for further evidence that Amazon cannot adequately manage the scale or quality of its own product, here it is. More garbage on the world’s largest trash chute.