Amazon accused of scrapping millions of unsold items by French TV channel M6

Translated by
Nicola Mira
today Jan 15, 2019
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Is US e-commerce giant Amazon throwing away millions of unsold new items? This at any rate is what the ‘Capital’ news programme, broadcast by French TV channel M6 on the evening of Sunday January 13, has been trying to demonstrate.

Amazon has been accused of throwing away unsold new products - Amazon

In the programme, an M6 journalist reported how he managed to get himself hired as freight handler at one of Amazon’s warehouses, in the town of Saran, northern France, in order to obtain a video record of the e-commerce giant's operations. Notably showing a series of huge containers used to destroy all sorts of objects, from sofas to coffee machines, TVs and toys.

The journalist managed to speak to several former employees, and also revealed some of the clauses contained in the contract between the Amazon marketplace and the third-party vendors it hosts, and whose products it stocks in its warehouses.

In the contract, Amazon gives such vendors, in case of unsold merchandise, the option of either shipping the goods back to them, or of destroying the goods, even if new: a legally acceptable though “disgusting” practice, according to ‘Capital’.

In Chalon-sur-Saône, one of Amazon’s smallest French facilities, 293,000 products, nearly all of them new, have been scrapped in just nine months, according to the programme presented by Julien Courbet, which cited union sources. Adding up the figures for all of Amazon’s French warehouses, about 3 million new items could potentially be thrown away each year according to ‘Capital’, again citing union sources.

Contacted by the AFP agency, Amazon France said that “it strives to cut down as much as possible the number of products that need to be returned by [their] clients, in their and [Amazon’s] own interest,” also adding that “in the case of products which cannot be resold, we work with organisations such as Dons Solidaires [charitable donations] and Banques Alimentaires [food banks] in order to donate them to people in need.”

Using drone-captured images, the TV report also showed how the products thrown away are routed to incinerators and landfills, in what has been denounced by environmental organisation Les Amis de la Terre as an ecological disaster.

Fraud Prevention office alerted after a first report

Last September, the organisation filed a memorandum with France’s Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Prevention of Fraud (DGCCRF), alerting it of some of Amazon’s “business practices” described as “fraudulent”. The US group was accused of a spate of legal violations, notably relating to the disposal of electric and electronic waste, which is mandatory under France’s environmental laws.

At the time, the organisation said it had been alerted by a news story broadcast last June on the ‘Frontal 21’ programme by German TV channel ZDF, according to which some Amazon employees said they had destroyed products returned by customers (such as dishwashers, washing machines and tablets), the majority of which were in perfect working order or had only minor defects.

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