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article imageAmazon bans dangerous USB Type-C cables to protect devices

By James Walker     Mar 30, 2016 in Technology
Amazon has officially banned low-quality USB Type-C cables from its website. The company has made the move after reports of some cables failing to adhere to the USB specification and damaging devices due to incorrectly-rated components.
The change was noted by Google engineer Benson Leung. Over the past few months, Leung has exposed dozens of sub-standard USB Type-C cables that could fatally damage devices or even start a fire.
In February, Leung's $1,000 laptop was killed by one particularly flawed cable. The lone researcher discovered it had been fundamentally miswired, a critical mistake that wrote off his laptop.
Unfortunately, it is very hard for consumers to tell at a glance whether a cable is safe or not. Aside from looking through Amazon's reviews section and reading Leung's blog, it is almost impossible to know ahead of time which products are safe to use. Even reputable manufacturers have built USB Type-C cables incorrectly, eroding consumer trust and making it difficult to trust USB products.
It appears Amazon has now realized the severity of the issue. It has explicitly banned below-standard USB Type-C cables from its website, modifying its electronics "Prohibited listings" guidance to sellers to include an entry for USB Type-C.
The company has added "Any USB-C™ (or USB Type-C™) cable or adapter product that not compliant with standard specifications issued by 'USB Implementers Forum Inc.'" to the prohibited products, preventing sellers from listing cables that don’t adhere to the stringent USB specifications. It is unclear how the company will enforce the new rule but it is at least there in principle.
"It means that cable manufacturers who sell poorly made or intentionally deceptive USB Type-C cables and adapters are banned from Amazon, officially," said Leung. This should make it easier to shop for USB Type-C cables, letting new customers buy in confidence.
USB Type-C is still a comparatively rare technology and is currently only available on a limited selection of high-end devices. Over time, it is expected to replace the current square-shaped port entirely though, making the new standard as ubiquitous as USB. Sales of Type-C accessories will grow exponentially as this occurs, making it important that cables are as safe as consumers assume they are.
Leung called on Amazon customers to "continue to be vigilant" and keep on reporting any flawed products they experience. Products can be reported directly to Amazon from their store page. If the company concludes it doesn’t meet its guidelines, it will be permanently banned from the marketplace.
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