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AmazonBasics Products, Like the Rest of America, Are Bursting Into Flames

Putting the fire in Fire Stick.

Amazon's logo, but it's frowning.

If you’re a frequent Amazon shopper, chances are you’ve come across (or maybe purchased) a product from the AmazonBasics line. The private label line, which began in 2009, offers over 5,000 products at an affordable price point, including appliances, consumer electronics, office supplies, and more. Fellow big box stores like Walmart and Target also have their own successful signature lines. But what sets AmazonBasics apart?

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You guessed it, fire! CNN published an investigative report on the dangerous product line, where they discovered that, “Since 2016, at least 1,500 reviews, covering more than 70 items, have described products exploding, catching on fire, smoking, melting, causing electrical malfunctions or otherwise posing risks, according to an analysis of AmazonBasics electronics and appliances listed on its website.”

CNN also found that nearly 200 of the reportedly faulty products caused damage to property, from cell phones fried via faulty chargers to actual fire damage in homes. More than 10% of the reviews reported a fire, with some claiming that flames shot out of their devices. But these fire hazards still remain top sellers for the company, with many sporting 4 star ratings and above.

Since CNN posted the article, Amazon has quietly removed 11 products from their website. The company has said that “safety is a top priority,” and that product issues are investigated. A spokesperson said, “The outcome of the investigation varies on a case by case basis and may include removing the product from the store, adjusting the design of the product, notifying customers to stop using the product, or other appropriate action, … We want customers to shop with confidence and if ever a customer has a concern, they can contact customer service and we will investigate.”

Most of Amazon’s electronics are manufactured in Asia, with about half produced in China. And Amazon has previously fielded questions about the secrecy surrounding its supply chain, especially with its wildly popular AmazonBasics battery line. It’s unclear just how much oversight there is within the line: while some products are produced and overseen closely, others are acquired by a third party company, who in turn may have their own supply chain workarounds.

This all points to the larger concern, which is the unchecked, monopolistic nature of Amazon. The company was criticized for firing whistleblowers and protest organizers, and for overworking and underpaying their employees, leading to dangerous working conditions.

But with the pandemic making online shopping more popular (and necessary) than ever before, Jeff Bezos just keeps getting richer. He’s estimated to have earned a staggering $74 billion thanks to COVID-19. And let’s not forget that, thanks to Republicans, his multi-billion dollar company has paid little to no taxes.

In the meantime, if you own any AmazonBasics electronics, it might be time to throw them out, or at least buy a fire extinguisher. Just maybe don’t but that fire extinguisher from Amazon.

(via CNN, image: Amazon/edits)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.

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