If you recently ordered eclipse glasses from Amazon, you may have received a disquieting email over the weekend. The message indicates that the company is offering refunds for many eclipse glasses and other solar-viewing products on the grounds that they may not meet safety standards. And while Amazon is crediting those customers for the full amount of their purchase, it’s not requesting that they return the defective products.
Space.com notes that this recall has been weeks in the making in the making: “Counterfeit solar eclipse glasses were first reported in late July when the nonprofit American Astronomical Society warned that some glasses falsely claimed to meet the international standard, known as ISO 12312-2, for safe solar viewing.” The AAS subsequently published a set of updated guidelines for safe viewing of the event. If you run a search for eclipse glasses on Amazon today, the site pops up a warning notice before results populate, noting that it has “implemented safety requirements for all filters for solar viewing offered on the site.”
Click through, and you’ll find that the message is directed at vendors rather than the site’s customers. It requires that they provide a range of information, including documentation about the manufacturers of the glasses and test results from an accredited laboratory.
Some vendors affected by the recall are reportedly upset. According to the Portland-based NBC affiliate KGW, “Two separate Amazon solar eclipse glasses sellers called KGW Saturday following Amazon’s recall. Both said their products were verified as safe and manufactured by companies approved by NASA. But their glasses are still under a recall.” One Amazon customer showed Slate a refund notice for a product on the AAS’s list of reputable vendors.
In some cases, though, things may be complicated. As KGW notes, AgneaAstro, another of the affected vendors, was selling “eclipse glasses come from two NASA-approved sellers: Thousand Oaks Optical in Arizona and Baader Planetarium in Germany.” But as the American Astronomical Society reports, one line of the Baader Planetarium’s shades is eclipse-ready while the other is not.
Ultimately, this recall speaks to the complex balancing act that Amazon attempts every day. Even as thousands of vendors operate through its site with minimal supervision, the company remains the face of almost every product that passes through its interface. In this case, it’s likely taking a sizable financial hit as it works to sustain that unwieldy system.
The AAS, for its own part, recommends that you buy your eclipse glasses in person, since even some of its reputable vendors “use different suppliers for their websites than they do for their stores.” Maybe brick-and-mortar retail really will survive after all!