'Stop Hiding Behind Your Platform:' Sweden Welcomes Amazon With Scathing Letter

Amazon has arrived in Sweden, and the locals are not thrilled.
August 27, 2020, 6:27pm
Sweden Welcomes Amazon With Scathing Letter
Photo by Fibonacci Blue | Flickr

"And so, you eventually made it to Sweden," begins the open letter to Amazon published August 26 by  the Swedish Consumers’ Association (SCA), a nonprofit watchdog. The letter doesn't get any more enthusiastic from there.

 Amazon announced its intentions to begin operating in Sweden in a blog post earlier this month, and the subsequent response from consumer groups like SCA and the country’s powerful labor unions paints a scathing picture of how Swedes perceive the e-commerce giant, marking an inauspicious start to Amazon’s first foray into the Nordic world.

 "When we meet with authorities and colleagues from other EU countries, we get the impression that many of your listed products threaten our privacy or are potentially life-threatening,” Jan Bertoft, SCA’s secretary general, wrote in the open letter. “In fact, recent testing shows that more than half of the products listed on Amazon and other platforms may be unsafe. This is frankly unacceptable.”

 In February, the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) published the results of safety tests conducted on 250 common products sold on Amazon, eBay, Aliexpress, and Wish. It reported that nearly 66 percent of the items failed benchmarks set by European Union safety laws and some—like smoke detectors that didn’t work and USB chargers prone to overheating—were potentially deadly.

 The agency called on the EU to pass laws making online marketplaces like Amazon liable for injuries and damages caused by the third-party products sold on their platforms.

 Amazon hasn’t yet disclosed when it will begin full operations in Sweden. Swedes can currently order products off the German version of the website, at high shipping costs.

 The German company Kuehne Nagel told Sweden’s SVT News that it was constructing a 15,000-square-foot warehouse in Eskilstuna, about 70 miles from Stockholm, and would operate it on Amazon’s behalf.

 Amazon is notorious for its anti-union actions, but organized labor is powerful in Sweden—about 70% of the Swedish workforce is unionized, according to government estimates.

 Handels, a trade union that represents many Swedish warehouse workers, said it’s positive that Kuehne Nagel, a company with established union relationships, will operate the warehouse. But in a post on its website, the union cautioned that Amazon’s labor practices in other countries damage not only its own employees, but are “also a problem for the entire labor market. This creates unhealthy competition where decent companies that do the right thing have a hard time competing with companies that behave badly.”

 Amazon’s move into Sweden comes as it faces pressure from Alibaba, which is seeking a foothold in Europe by offering seller fees that would undercut Amazon’s rates, Reuters reported.

 In its blog post announcing the Swedish expansion, Amazon touted its infrastructure investments that benefit small- and medium-sized businesses and claimed its platform will create opportunities for Swedish entrepreneurs. The company did not respond to a request for comment regarding the concerns raised by SCA in the open letter.

 "Time has come for you to step up and ensure that a purchase from Amazon never results in a visit to the emergency room," the SCA letter concluded. "Stop hiding behind your platform. Accept responsibility for what you stock, sell and advertise. And take responsibility for your customers’ safety and privacy."