Amazon has held for years that products shipped to your home by a third-party seller are not their responsibility should that product be defective. Yet, two recent California court decisions demonstrate that the logistics giant may actually be held accountable when a product purchased from them, regardless of where it is shipped from, has a defect.
Defective product lawsuits
The first court case held Amazon liable for an exploding laptop battery. In that case, the laptop was shipped via Amazon’s “Fulfilled by Amazon” service which warehouses and ships merchandise for third-party sellers. However, the second case placed an even stronger burden on Amazon for product defects. In that case, a defective hoverboard caused a fire when its battery exploded. The hoverboard was purchased on Amazon but shipped from China directly to the consumer. Amazon argued that they could not be held responsible for items that they did not create, sell, store or ship.
Potential problem for Amazon
More than half of the items sold on Amazon are from third-party retailers, bringing in more than $23 billion each year. More people are shopping online, and Amazon has reaped the benefit of the shift in consumer purchasing methods. These decisions could mean Amazon will have to better police the third-party sellers on its platform. The courts are claiming that Amazon is an important part of getting third-party products into the hands of consumers and that they owe a responsibility to those consumers to protect them from product defects.
Consumer protection laws
One thing to keep in mind is that consumer protection laws vary from state-to-state and many were legislated long before e-commerce existed. Some states are trying to catch up with e-commerce, but most online retailers, including eBay, Google and Etsy, oppose legislation that would make them liable. Anyone who has been injured because something they ordered online suffers from product defects understands why there need to be protections in place as most consumers are unaware they are ordering from a third-party when they make a purchase on Amazon.
An injury from a defective product can be catastrophic and it is critical that you contact an attorney if you suffer such an injury.