Amazon’s growing footprint has invited a lot of scrutiny into its practices, with many, including the American Congress noting that the company simply has too much power. Growing revenue and expanding business profile has forced lawmakers to take measures to slow the company’s roll, and a new ruling from a California court aims to do just that. Now, Amazon, much like other sellers, will be held accountable for any defective products that might ship through its platform.
This ruling overturns an opposing decision from San Diego Superior Court, which exculpated the company from any liability for injuries caused from defective products. The previous decision was based on the fact that Amazon is a ‘service provider,’ and thus, does not need to abide by the California product liability law.
Today’s decision was based on a very specific incident that involved the plaintiff Angela Bolger, a faulty laptop battery, and some serious burn damage. Angela made a purchase from an Amazon third-party seller Lenoge Technology HK Ltd, which was ironically operating under the name of “E-Life.” However, when she kept her new ‘E-Life’ battery powered laptop on her thighs, it burst into flames, resulting in severe burns to her arms, legs and feet.
The court made the decision that Amazon’s role, whether as a retailer,’ ‘distributor,’ or merely a ‘facilitator,’ was very crucial in this sale, and consequently, there need to be some sort of reparations.
Amazon operates a personal inventory, and also allows third party sellers to list items on its platform, which are either shipped through its own warehouses or by the seller directly. This makes the process of categorising Amazon overly difficult, since it operates as a seller, as well as a service provider. Thus, it has allowed Amazon to evade multiple lawsuits over the past, having the benefit of doubt on its side. However, courts have, on more than one occasion, allowed lawsuits to happen. Thus, trials against Amazon have been judged on a per case basis.
This is just another battle from a long legal war that has been started against the e-commerce company. Today’s decision highlights a problem admitted by Jeff Bezos during the Congress meeting last month where he said that stolen and counterfeit products are, in fact, being sold across Amazon’s marketplace. He also added that the company does not have any measures in place to stop this from happening, at least yet.