Since the birth of Jeff Bezos’ brainchild in 1994, Amazon, e-commerce has catapulted to earn its dominance in the modern age of the retail industry. Competitors saw the promise of limitless opportunities online and followed the footsteps of the e-commerce pioneer.
As time passed, the online industry made it easier for giants and small businesses alike to sell products to consumers regardless of distance and location. Modern technology paved the way to turn anyone into an online entrepreneur in just a few clicks.
No doubt that an innovation founded more than two decades ago has been able to keep up with society’s demands. Especially recently, when the rages of the coronavirus pandemic made a drastic hit on brick and mortar stores, online spend with U.S. retailers skyrocketed at 30.1% only for the first half of 2020, as compared to the 12.7% overall growth from 2018-2019.
The vast online marketplace enabled the most mundane to extremely innovative products to be accessible to anyone who has internet. Multiple merchants can often offer the same products but at varying price tags. A convenience for many, e-commerce also eliminates the hassles of buying products or services that were used to be only available through branded names and professionals. Instead of having bi-monthly trips to the dentist, aesthetic clinic, and the salon, people can opt for more DIY options, such as buying an LED teeth whitening kit, a facial device, and a hair curling iron from the online market.
But not all products you see on e-commerce platforms are good alternatives to professional services. What if the purchase drew more inconvenience than present a solution?
When a product is already defective as soon as it reaches you
With millions of products being sold online, not every single one may reach the consumers in pristine condition. A few factors will come to play when the product appears faulty from the moment the package is opened. First, the defect may be inherent based on the production of the manufacturer. Second to assume responsibility in the distribution chain is the vendor from online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, Etsy, and Craigslist. Third, the third-party merchant who serves as the middleman for the online transaction. And last is the logistics company that may have mishandled the delivery of the package.
Whoever may be accountable for the defect, the responsibility still boils down to the Terms and Conditions that are automatically agreed upon the checkout of the consumer. Private merchants and online marketplaces have varying policies, but these are usually available for the consumer to check before making a purchase. Most would offer easy solutions for faulty items such as replacement or refund to cash or store credit. Some would go farther lengths to appease the consumers by offering buy-back guarantee promises and would even allow change of mind as a valid reason for item returns.
If the product caused you harm and damages
Aside from serving its purpose, a product is automatically expected to reach the ordinary expectations of a consumer. Unexpected harm and danger caused by the product certainly do not meet the basic expectations. A product liability claim covers defects in the design, manufacturing, and marketing of the product and can hold the members of the distribution chain liable to the claim.
The precedents in legal actions against online marketplaces had the defendants like Amazon and Alibaba evade responsibility from the damages and fraud claims by their consumers. Both rulings stated the liability does not extend to the defendants, for they are a mere medium that connects sellers to consumers.
There appear to be blurred lines when it comes to consumer protection as previous rulings all went in favor of the third-party merchant, and the product vendors were nowhere to be reached as soon as the consumers demanded liability for harmful purchases. In the end, the plaintiffs suffered with only themselves to account for. Fortunately, recent events in California, along with others in Texas, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, made progress with the lapse in the system. Democratic Assemblyman, Mark Stone, pulled a bill over a legislative session, stating that online marketplaces should be held liable for the products in their catalog as much as brick-and-mortar retailers are accountable for the goods they sell. This led to a first-ever court ruling that favors the plaintiff rather than the defendant, Amazon.
However, the ruling is not considered binding outside the state of California. Still, it is considered progress since courts often consider decisions made from other states. Surprisingly, Amazon stands with the bill in the condition that it also applies to all online marketplaces.
Safety and security are not always a guarantee when buying online goods. It is important to make careful considerations before making a purchase. In case of unexpected severe damages due to defects, contact legal support.