Amazon’s illegal bestseller

Amazon has rightfully earned the title of “the everything store.” Unfortunately, everything happens to include illegal weapons.

Driving the news: An illegal switchblade sold on Amazon as a “camping knife" achieved “#1 Best Seller” status on the platform before the listing was taken down last week, a CBC investigation found. 

  • The knife was bought over 300 times in the past month. One buyer wrote in a review, "Somehow this very illegal knife made it to my house and I could not be happier."
  • The investigation found that other illegal items like stun guns and brass knuckles were also for sale, with the listings for stun guns reappearing after being removed.

Zoom out: Amazon has found itself in hot water before for listing products it wasn’t supposed to, either because the items were illegal (like banned gun parts hidden in bike handles) or because they violated site policies (like pill presses used for making illicit drugs). 

  • Back in 2019, Amazon warehouses in Canada made headlines after a Montréal woman said she was delivered pepper spray and a stun gun instead of a cat dish.

Why it matters: Amazon has so much stuff that it’s impossible to police everything, especially since third-party sellers account for over 60% of sales. As one member of the restricted products team told The Markup, “No matter how much we remove, there’s always more.” 

  • While Amazon uses tech to scan for restricted items and requires the use of product identifiers, crafty sellers can get around this by purposefully misidentifying listings. 

What’s next: The EU launched a probe into Amazon’s consumer protections late last year and demanded details on how the company stops illegal products. In Canada, Amazon signed a voluntary pledge (those always work, right?) to strengthen product safety.—QH