Amazon should be held liable for faulty items sold by third parties

Custodio & Dubey LLP logo

Amazon logo

Amazon probably has anything you are looking to buy. But don’t you want to know if you can trust who you are buying from? It’s so tempting to click the little “buy now” button, especially when the item will arrive in only two days. But is it worth it when the item may be harmful to your children? Up until recently, Amazon’s third-party sellers did not have to pass any criteria in order to sell anything through Amazon. Further, it was difficult for buyers to complain when the item they received was damaged or even dangerous.

So what happened as a result of Amazon giving no oversight to this part of their business? You guessed it. There were numerous complaints over the years filed about faulty items harming customers. There were the highly flammable children’s pajamas. The hair dryers that dried to the point of burning your hair. Dehumidifiers that set fire to people’s homes. Diet pills touted as “all natural” that actually contain pharmaceuticals banned by the FDA. Dangerous products like these — which may not even meet U.S. standards for sale in this country — make third-party sellers an untrustworthy, risky option for people trying to save a few bucks.

Amazon in July finally took action to make it easier for customers to leave complaints about faulty items sold by third-party merchants. But does making it easier to complain actually fix the problem? We certainly don’t think so.

A complaint comes after the injury happens, no? Your kid’s pajamas light on fire, they get burned, and then you... send a complaint? It shouldn’t take an injury of a child for Amazon to ban an item from its website. So, what else did Amazon decide to do? Ah, there it is. Pay their way out of it by offering up to $1,000 in compensation for injuries caused by faulty third-party seller items. Still, that doesn’t prevent the injury from occurring, that’s just cleaning up the aftermath.

What would real changes look like? Well, for starters, Amazon must own up to what’s being sold on their website. The company argues they should not be held liable for faulty items sold by third-party sellers, and instead that the liability is in the hands of the seller. When someone goes to Amazon to buy something, they probably assume it’s actually coming from Amazon, and not from a random seller. Amazon should start accepting legal liability for third-party seller items to keep customers out of harm’s way and take accountability. Then penalize, educate or otherwise correct the problem with the seller. It’s safe to assume that the trillion-dollar company certainly has the profits to do so.

Shipping warehouse with boxes