Sight Loss Councils pressure Amazon UK to include legal use notices on e-scooter listings
Tyne and Wear Sight Loss Council has worked with Trading Standards and local authorities to get Amazon UK e-scooter listings to prominently display warnings concerning the legal use limitations of private e-scooters.
Privately owned e-scooters are appearing ever more on our local streets and pavements, despite being currently illegal.
To blind and partially sighted people they can be a silent menace causing some to feel afraid of going out and about.
We have asked e-scooter companies to adopt the recommendations put forward by a coalition of national VI sector charities, that include Thomas Pocklington Trust.
Another element of our campaign is to reduce the impact of privately owned e-scooters being used illegally in public spaces to the detriment of blind and partially sighted people, especially on pavements and crossings.
Engagement manager for North East Sight Loss Councils, Eamonn Dunne says:
One North Tyneside resident and guide-dog owner told us that the fear of an e-scooter hitting her is putting her off going out of the house.”
Through our ‘Streets for all’ campaign we want to encourage e-scooter retailers to act within the law and make buyers aware that the only place to legally use an e-scooter is on private land with the owner’s permission.
e-scooters and consumer regulations
Privately owned e-scooters are not regulated in the same way as those that are part of approved rental schemes. The law is clear that privately-owned e-scooters cannot be used in any public space.*
Using an e-scooter in any public place may lead to confiscation of the e-scooter and a fine as well as points on a person’s driving licence.
Retailers are obliged under consumer legislation to ensure that consumers are given sufficient information when purchasing an e-scooter.
The reality is most buyers of e-scooters are often not aware of the limits of their legal use.
Following initial checks of online retailers, Sight Loss Councils found that Amazon UK, which accounts for 52% of the UK online marketplace (‘Statista’ April 2021), did not include legal use limitations within product listings, thus effectively breaking the law.
What if potential purchasers of e-scooters knew they could not ride their new e-scooter anywhere in a public space legally?
Perhaps this knowledge might have deterred them from buying an e-scooter altogether.
Tyne and Wear SLC take action
Tyne and Wear Sight Loss Council approached Amazon customer services in April 2021 to raise these concerns directly. Amazon UK refused to add the warnings to their sellers’ pages despite significant correspondence with the council.
In July 2021, Tyne and Wear Sight Loss Council took the matter to Trading Standards to report Amazon UK for breaching consumer law by not prominently displaying warnings concerning the legal use limitations of e-scooters as well as promoting their use for commuting.
After working closely with Tyne and Wear SLC, the authority subsequently contacted over 21 local authorities to make them aware of suppliers of e-scooters in their area, where the information about restrictions on use is not apparent in their Amazon ads.
This action led to a snowballing of positive responses. Shortly after raising the issue, the Birmingham authority began contacting local companies in their area immediately amending their advertisements. Other authorities have also confirmed that they are working with businesses in their respective regions to deal with the non-compliance.
A Sight Loss Councils Triumph!
We achieved our primary goal in January 2022—every e-scooter now sold on Amazon UK carries the following message:
‘Important note: There may be local legal restrictions relating to the use of this product on roads, footways, cycle lanes, or in other public areas, such as license, plate, safety helmet, and driving restrictions. For example, e-scooters are prohibited from use in any public road or space in the UK. Please check before you buy and use this product. See more details.‘
There are a large number of suppliers of e-scooters that are not based in the UK, and information about those traders has been flagged up with Amazon. Trading Standards will continue to take up the issue with Amazon on a corporate level. The progress so far will go some way in ensuring clarity of advertising of e-scooters until Amazon are able to proceed with any action they propose.
Find out more about our #StreetsForAll campaign
Visually Impaired people should be able to enjoy our nation’s public spaces independently and safely. Our streets should be accessible to everyone. Our #StreetsforAll campaign calls for improved e-scooter safety, a pavement parking ban and accessible streets for visually impaired people.
*Privately owned e-scooters differ from those in government-approved schemes in several critical ways:
- They cannot be geo-fenced (restricted from specific locations)
- They cannot be speed restricted
- They have no age limit on use (users of rental schemes must be over 18)
- They have no registration number on the scooter
- They tend to be smaller
- They have many more in circulation