Amazon now liable in California for defective products from third-party sellers

Amazon sells so many items on its web store, it’s practically impossible to ensure none are defective or pose a safety risk to users.

Which is why Amazon has long argued that liability is on the third-party sellers – which makes up 60% of is US trade – if, for example, a battery explodes on a customer.

As was the case in an initial court ruling after a laptop battery purchased on Amazon via third-party seller Lenoge Technology HK Ltd. exploded and caused “severe burns” for Amazon shopper Angela Bolder.

However, an appeals court in the US State of California has now decided Amazon should “be held liable if a product sold through its website turns out to be defective.”

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While this is just one ruling in one American state, the decision may have lasting ramifications for Amazon. The company may end up having to undertake far greater due diligence over the products and sellers it allows on its stores. The ruling from Justice Patricia Guerrero says Amazon played a “pivotal role” in bringing this particular product to the consumer and takes some responsibility.

She writes (via Gizmodo): “As a factual and legal matter, Amazon placed itself between Lenogeand Bolger in the chain of distribution of the product at issue here. Amazon accepted possession of the product from Lenoge, stored it in an Amazon warehouse, attracted Bolger to the Amazon website, provided her with a product listing for Lenoge’s product, received her payment for the product, and shipped the product in Amazon packaging to her. Amazon set the terms of its relationship with Lenoge, controlled the conditions of Lenoge’s offer for sale on Amazon, limited Lenoge’s access to Amazon’s customer information, forced Lenoge to communicate with customers through Amazon, and demanded indemnification as well as substantial fees on each purchase. Whatever term we use to describe Amazon’s role, be it “retailer,” “distributor,” or merely “facilitator,” it was pivotal in bringing the product here to the consumer.”

Justice Guerrero’s ruling follows a similar affair in Philadelphia last year, surrounding a defective dog collar that reportedly played a role in blinding an Amazon shopper.

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