People usually assume shady internet transactions involve anonymous Craigslist ads or the dark web, not the world’s largest internet retailer. However, a recent study by The Wall Street Journal found that Amazon had over 4,000 unsafe items listed for sale on their website at a given time. The deficiencies varied by product, but items had in common federal agency warnings or prohibitions regarding their safety. Infractions varied from missing or misleading warning labels, to outright dangerous and banned products. The largest category of items were those that posed a choking hazard to children. Other products were found to have high levels of lead, and other toxic materials.
Amazon and Third-Party Vendors
Amazon does not only sell its own products, but also allows other companies to sell their products through its online marketplace. These ‘third-party vendors’ are theoretically supposed to be covered by the same standards Amazon’s own products, but in reality this is not the case. Many of the third-party vendors manufacture their products in China or other countries with less consumer safety standards. Amazon has measures in place which are supposed to ensure safety and compliance with U.S. safety standards. But, as the WSJ report shows, the measures have been marginally effective, likely due to the sheer amount of products for sale on Amazon. Some vendors use deceptive packaging or imitate known brands, and along with other tactics make it hard for consumers to determine what is safe or dangerous.
Amazon and Product Liability
The issue with the large amounts of unsafe merchandise for sale on Amazon is not solely that consumers might end up with injuries, but that if they do get injured, they won’t have recourse for compensation. This is because Amazon claims is not the seller of the third-party products on its website but merely the platform for other companies, which means that Amazon is not liable for any damages caused by defective items sold by third-party vendors. A recent case occurred in Maryland, where Amazon was found not liable for a defective flashlight sold on its website that burned down a couple’s home. Unfortunately, the flashlight was made by a Chinese company with little business in the U.S., so the victims in this case were unable to pursue the company for damages due to the legal and financial issues related to litigation in China.
What to Do About Potentially Dangerous Products
This situation puts consumers in a precarious position–dangerous products are out there which are difficult to identify, and if they cause you personal injury, you may find yourself with no means of compensation. Some are calling for Amazon to police its website better or accept greater liability for the third-party products it helps sell. Either way, consumers should be cautious of what and where they are ordering from Amazon.
Have you or a loved one ever suffered from an injury caused by a defective product? You owe it to yourself to get help–contact the legal team at Regan Zambri Long PLLC for a free consultation about your product liability case today.