Numerous safety concerns over motorcycle kit sold by Amazon

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Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results. But still, I can’t help but be disappointed when repeated attempts to engage with Amazon about motorcyclists' safety continue to be met with what appears to be a disregard for the law surrounding the legal sale of bike kit. Especially as it’s been described as “one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world.” 

The latest safety issue is potentially lethal ‘motorcycle airbags’ sold on the online marketplace, which are putting motorbike riders’ lives at risk thanks to a lack of correct certification…

A follow up to this article reveals more safety concerns, and a direct comparison of the speed of inflation between these dangerous airbags and legitimate ones. See the investigation here.


Fake motorcycle airbags being sold on Amazon

On 18 July 2022, the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) announced that 11 models of life jackets sold via Amazon had been recalled after it was discovered that they presented a serious risk of drowning.

OPSS said that “The products are classed as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The products were not supplied with the required compliance documentation or markings to demonstrate that they have been adequately conformity assessed. Mandatory third party conformity assessment is required by the relevant Regulations for those products which protect against more serious risks, the absence of such independent assessment for such a product may increase the risk to the consumer that the product may not perform as expected when relied upon to protect them from harm in the water.

“The products do not meet the requirements of the PPE Regulation 2016/425.”

Some of those recalled ‘life jackets’ were also being sold as ‘motorcycle airbags’.

Paul Varnsverry, a leading independent expert in Personal Protective Equipment Regulation, supplied a list of 38 ASINs (Amazon Standard Identification Numbers) for products sold on Amazon listed as ‘airbag vests for motorcyclists’, none of which had been tested and certified to the relevant EN 1621-4 standard for motorcycle use.

Without proper testing, there’s no guarantee that the airbags will inflate to an adequate pressure, cover the required areas, or indeed inflate quick enough to be of any use.

The issue is exactly the same as that which led to the OPSS having to step in and remove the ‘life jackets’ from sale. We presented this to Amazon’s media relations team on 20 July 2022.


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Just one of many ‘motorcycle airbags’ being sold illegally on Amazon


On 26 July, an Amazon media representative told us that the relevant compliance documents had been requested from the sellers we’d highlighted (something that any legitimate retailer should be able to supply very quickly).

On 1 August Paul also supplied several more ASINs of illegally-sold products, and on 11 August Amazon’s representative told us that the ASINs we had flagged had been removed.

Shortly after this, Paul provided details of another 25 offending ‘motorcycle air-vests’. “I stopped at 25, but there are many, many more air-vests listed,” he said in his email to the company. “I think the point is well made that Amazon is saturated with non-conforming motorcycle clothing (and I have only provided ASINs for air-vests so far; I haven’t even started to list suits, jackets, trousers, gloves and footwear).

“I only have so much time on any given day to commit to this activity. Rather than someone having to go through individual products after they have been placed on the platform, surely there is a way for Amazon to filter out these products to prevent them from being listed in the first place?”

We also took the opportunity to again flag the potential solution, which we presented it to Amazon over a year ago and you can see below.


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Paul also sent this screen grab to Amazon, pointing out that “A ‘utility model patent certificate’ has no relevance whatsoever to the product’s conformity to the PPE Regulation. The response is a deflection technique typical of that routinely experienced from companies selling illegal goods: trying to assert the legitimacy of their product by reference to documentation which has no bearing.”


The one simple step that Amazon needs to do

We’ve repeatedly suggested to Amazon that simply adding a field to the ‘Technical Details’ of product listings for sellers to include the certification achieved would be a huge step forward in providing buyers with the knowledge required to buy more safely.

Taking it a step further, this could also link to the manufacturer’s website where the Declaration of Conformity that they are required by law to provide, and which includes details of the certificate number, the issuing body and the standard used to assess the product, could be accessed. Ideally there would also be a link to an article that explains the law around motorcycle clothing. We have a guide to what the safety certification labels mean in motorcycle kit here.

Simply including this field would allow purchasers to check that the product has the required paperwork and labelling when they receive it. If it doesn’t, that means it’s not as described so the buyer would be well within their rights to demand a full refund.

Of course, there will still be fake certification and there’ll be buyers who aren’t bothered, but as most people buy motorcycle kit to protect them if the worst happens, we’re seeing an exponential growth in the number of riders who are checking for the proper testing being carried out. And the more returns these sellers get, the less likely they are to want to gamble with the lives of motorcycle riders.


What does Amazon say?

Despite pointing out that we were very keen to engage with Amazon in order to highlight the regulations surrounding the legal sale of motorcycle clothing, and that we’d been unable to make contact with Dr Opperer, Amazon provided us with the following statement:

“Third party sellers are independent businesses and are required to follow all applicable laws, regulations, and Amazon policies when listing items for sale in our store. We have proactive measures in place to prevent prohibited products from being listed and we continuously monitor our store. Those who violate our policies are subject to action including potential removal of their account.”

We asked for confirmation that Amazon is not looking to introduce any indication on its listings as to the legally-required certification of motorcycle personal protective sold by third parties (for instance, simply adding a field in the technical details), but didn’t receive a reply.

We’ve also tried again to contact key Amazon staff members on LinkedIn… you can see the post here.


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Amazon’s algorithm emailed Paul to suggest more illegally-sold and potentially lethal motorcycle air-vests.


Statement from Paul Varnsverry, PPE expert

“I have tried to engage with both Amazon and eBay in the past, to bring the volume of non-conforming products to their attention,” said Paul Varnsverry, technical director of PVA-PPE Group and Triumph Tiger rider. “Until recently, it was impossible to get beyond the platitudes of the initial customer services first points of contact; more senior managers never contacted me and no action to remove potentially illegal products from sale was ever taken.

“As a direct result of BikeSocial’s involvement, however, Amazon’s media team contact has more recently proven helpful and cooperative and arranged for the more than 60 air-vests I reported to them to be delisted. This is a good result and takes potentially substandard, non-conforming products off the platform – unless the vendors simply relist them.

“The job of Amazon’s media team is, of course, to make the company look good, and in their statement they claim Amazon has ‘proactive measures in place to prevent prohibited products from being listed and we continuously monitor our store’. I suggest that 65 individual air-vests listed on the platform, until they were reported to Amazon, constitutes prima facie evidence that neither their proactive measures nor their monitoring are working! On this basis it would be reasonable to question whether, despite their claims to the contrary, Amazon has in fact been conducting any such activity.

“The e-commerce platforms appear to have no regard whatsoever for the safety of riders. They hide within a legal loophole and push responsibility for compliance with legislation onto vendors who in the main are either unaware of their legal responsibilities, or knowingly ignore them. My advice to motorcyclists is not to purchase their bike gear from off the e-commerce platforms, unless it is from the online store of an established and reputable retailer with roots in the biking community.”


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Is this just happening on Amazon?

No. Potentially dangerous motorcycle clothing can be found online at eBay and through Facebook, as well as other platforms. You’ll also find it on some stalls at shows and events, but BikeSocial’s Stop Unsafe Motorcycle Riding Kit campaign has been working with Trading Standards teams across the country to help reduce the risks to riders, and to raise awareness of what buyers should look for.

You can wear what you want when riding a bike, but the law states that ALL motorcycle clothing put onto the market since 21 April 2018 MUST be tested and certified as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). If companies are avoiding their legal responsibilities, can you trust them to sell you something that will protect you in a crash?

In the words of the OPSS, mandatory third-party conformity assessment is required by the relevant regulations for those products which protect against more serious risks, the absence of such independent assessment for such a product may increase the risk to the consumer that the product may not perform as expected when relied upon to protect them from harm in a motorcycle accident.

We recently investigated adverts on Facebook for Carvenal Gloves, finding the brand to be using fake safety certificates, and that its ‘leather gloves’ are actually made of what is basically plastic.

After we bought uncertified motorcycle leathers from Amazon that contained fake armour and were shipped direct from Pakistan while avoiding taxes and import duties, we had this response from the company: “Safety is a top priority at Amazon and we want customers to shop with confidence on our stores. The item in question has been removed.”

The seller is still offering these leathers on Amazon.


Product safety at Amazon

Dr Jeremy Opperer discusses Amazon’s commitment to product safety in Europe.


We tried to connect with Dr Jeremy Opperer – Principal, EMEA Product Trust & Regulatory Affairs at Amazon via LinkedIn – after a post celebrated his interview discussing Amazon’s ‘vision to be the safest place on earth to shop’. In the video, Dr Opperer tells Conor Sweeney – Director, EMEA Corporate Communications – that “Our customers expect not only great selection, but also when they make a purchase on our store, either directly from Amazon or from a third party seller, they’ll receive safe products.

“As a customer obsessed company, earning and maintaining our customers’ trust is of utmost concern. And it’s for these reasons customer and product safety, and regulatory compliance more generally, are top priorities for us at Amazon.

“We want our customers to be able to buy with confidence on our stores, because it’s that trust which keeps customers coming back.”
When asked what Amazon does to enable customers to buy with confidence, Dr Opperer said “Customers deserve to be well protected everywhere they shop. Each part of the value chain has a role to play. From manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers to online marketplaces. Even authorities and consumers play a part.

“Consumers should be protected regardless of where they shop, how they shop, or where the products come from. Amazon has invested hundreds of millions of Euros to protect consumers from abuse and unsafe products. And this is achieved both by investing in developing new technology that can deliver results at scale, and through the work of thousands of specialists all over the world.”


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We commented on the Amazon video, inviting the company to discuss the regulations around motorcycle clothing sales, but our message has been deleted.


We’re not picking on Amazon, but the global leader has the opportunity to protect buyers (as does eBay), and we’re happy to engage with any company to help it be a platform that motorcycle riders should have confidence in and trust. Until that happens though, while there is also plenty of other legitimate, properly tested and legally-sold motorcycle kit available on Amazon, eBay and other marketplaces, we’d recommend sticking only to established UK-based sellers and bricks and mortar stores for riding kit that you expect to keep you safe.


Should you buy motorcycle clothing from Amazon?

A search on Amazon for ‘protective motorcycle clothing’ reveals more than 700,000 results, with many on the first page alone claiming to be ‘CE armoured’. Even if this is true, the entire garment has to be tested for safety to be legally sold in the UK and Europe, and there’s no indication that any of these are.

Many of the sellers offering potentially dangerous clothing appear to have their ‘stores’ in Birmingham and the surrounding area, at addresses that either don’t exist, or are residential locations. If in doubt, contact the seller and ask for proof of certification. Also check the ‘Detailed seller information’ and check the address on Google maps.

Again though, until we see change, we can only recommend sticking to established UK-based sellers and bricks-and-mortar stores. If companies like Sportsbikeshop and Urban Rider can include the safety certification on their product listings, why can’t everyone else?

Our invitation to work with Amazon, eBay or any other online marketplace that wants to provide a safe and trustworthy platform to buy protective motorcycle clothing remains open.

We have sent this article to OPSS, the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) and Hertfordshire Trading Standards, Amazon UK’s local authority.


This air vest is lethal

Check out how slow this air-vest, purchased from AliExpress, is to inflate! A follow up to this article reveals more safety concerns, and a direct comparison of the speed of inflation between these dangerous airbags and legitimate ones. See the investigation here.