Office of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Amazon.com CEO Andy Jassy, releasing the results of a new staff investigation revealing that Amazon search and sponsorship algorithms may be misleading consumers who are seeking FDA-approved COVID-19 masks during the pandemic. In her letter, she calls on the company to immediately modify its search policies and procedures to prevent consumers from receiving misleading information about the masks that they seek for protection from COVID-19.
"I am concerned that Amazon's policies and procedures appear to be increasing risks for many individuals that are purchasing COVID-19 masks and other protective gear to protect themselves and their communities, and I urge you to immediately fix these dangerous problems," wrote Senator Warren. "Millions of Americans are reliant on Amazon for their purchases of KN95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). But the investigation by my staff revealed that, when consumers search for these items on your website, they may be misled by Amazon's search algorithms and lack of quality control standards."
The staff investigation found:
- Amazon's search algorithm is promoting sponsored products that are not authorized by the FDA, placing them near the top of search results even when customers specifically search for FDA-authorized masks.
- Amazon often does not clearly indicate if masks have received FDA authorizations, and leaves out key information, like manufacturers and model numbers, that consumers need to determine whether a mask is FDA-authorized.
- Amazon's quality control standards do not appear to be sufficient to prevent consumers from being sold masks that are counterfeit or are not authorized by the FDA.
"The nation is making extraordinary progress with COVID-19 vaccinations, but millions of Americans have still not been vaccinated, many more indicate they will not ever be vaccinated, and, regardless of vaccination status, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommends mask-wearing. Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts Americans may need to continue to wear masks in 2022. This means that the ability to procure effective masks to protect against COVID-19 will remain critical in the fight to save lives during the pandemic," wrote Senator Warren.
Senator Warren requested answers to her question by no later than April 13, 2021.