The Third US City Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has released a ruling this week that Amazon can and should be held accountable for third party sales via its website. This ruling runs counter to past rulings issued in the past by lower courts that were all issued in favor of the mega-retailer.
If this new ruling is upheld, it will drastically impact the way Amazon does business these days as nearly half the sales that go through the retail giant’s website are handled by third-party sellers. That means that over 11 billion US Dollars in sales was contributed directly by these third parties to Amazon’s bottom line.
Ruling in line with Pennsylvania law
Liability regarding products varies from state to state, and in this case, the ruling is in line with Pennsylvania’s law on consumer protection. Pennsylvania resident Heather Oberdorf sued the company in federal court over three years ago, in 2016 to be precise, over a purchase that awry.
She bought a retractable dog leash via Amazon that had a problem – the leash broke and in the process, it destroyed her glasses and left her with complete loss of vision on her left eye. Her lawyers had a few choice words to say following the verdict.
“It’s gratifying that the 3rd Circuit agreed with our argument and recognized that the existing interpretation of product liability law in Pennsylvania was not addressing the reality, the dominance that Amazon has in the marketplace,” was what her counsel had to say following the ruling.
Long journey not yet over
However, this is not the end of the road for Heather and her lawyers. It is expected that Amazon will most likely appeal the ruling to try and get a more favorable ruling issued that benefits them. The company stands to lose out in a big way if this ruling stands so the company has a rather large incentive to keep the case going.
That said, they have not commented on it yet and only time will tell when they will issue an announcement, though going by past evidence, it should come sooner rather than later. There is also the issue of whether the leash was defective at all.
This particular matter will be dealt with by a lesser court which will rule on that specific matter. The matter of whether Amazon was at fault is separate from whether the dog leash was defective in any way. Heather still has a long way to go before she receives justice for the loss of vision in her left eye.
It is a testament to the power that newer, larger companies have that this court case, that deals directly with a product sold by them, can be dragged on for so long. Many in the online shopping industry have lamented the poor quality control of the worlds biggest retailer and Heather is just one of those who are looking to hold Amazon accountable for their practices.