Buyers are executing a lot more and much more procuring on the internet. But when a consumer buys a product or service that is faulty or counterfeit, are on the web marketplaces liable for misconduct by third-occasion sellers?
E-commerce platforms have normally averted being dealt with like their brick-and-mortar counterparts by arguing that they do not essentially “sell” goods, but fairly offer products and services (e.g., payment processing, storage, shipping) to 3rd-social gathering sellers, who in turn provide merchandise to shoppers. Even so, new court docket decisions and looming legislation may possibly improve this dynamic, opening up online marketplaces to product or service liability and intellectual home promises for products and solutions bought by third-parties on their platforms.
As formerly talked about on this blog, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court docket agreed in July 2020 to choose regardless of whether Amazon may be held strictly liable for defective products bought by third events on its website. Although that scenario is continue to pending, a California appellate court docket lately weighed in with its own reply to that issue less than California law.
In Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC, a shopper alleged that she purchased a alternative notebook battery on Amazon.com, which caught hearth and seriously burned her. Amazon moved for summary judgment on the floor that the doctrine of strict legal responsibility was inapplicable because Amazon did not manufacture, provide or distribute the laptop computer battery. Relatively, a 3rd-occasion vendor making use of Amazon’s expert services offered the merchandise to the plaintiff. The decreased court docket agreed with Amazon and granted summary judgment. But California’s Courtroom of Enchantment (Fourth Appellate District) reversed that final decision on attraction, detailing that “[w]hatever term we use to describe Amazon’s role, be it ‘retailer,’ ‘distributor,’ or merely ‘facilitator,’ it was pivotal in bringing the product or service listed here to the customer.”
On September 22, 2020, Amazon petitioned the California Supreme Court docket to review the Courtroom of Appeal’s selection in Bolger, arguing that legislatures, not the courts, must make your mind up irrespective of whether online marketplaces that facilitate 3rd-get together income really should be strictly liable to the exact same extent as brick-and-mortar shops. Certainly, as Amazon famous in its petition, California’s legislature is at this time contemplating a proposed monthly bill on this very situation.
How this difficulty performs out may perhaps have ripple consequences past the realm of item legal responsibility scenarios. On the web marketplaces have averted immediate liability for intellectual assets infringement applying the same argument that 3rd functions, not the marketplaces, “sell” the products and solutions to consumers. See, e.g., Milo & Gabby, LLC v. Amazon.com, Inc. (dismissing trademark infringement declare on summary judgment since “the proof demonstrates that Amazon is not the vendor of the alleged infringing products”). But that could change if courts or legislators choose to deal with on the internet marketplaces the exact same as standard brick-and-mortar “sellers” beneath tort regulation.
Notably, this situation has caught the eye of federal legislators, who earlier this year launched two costs on this subject. Very first, the Store Safe Act of 2020 (H.R. 6058), would “amend the Trademark Act of 1946 to give for contributory legal responsibility for particular digital commerce platforms for use of a counterfeit mark by a 3rd occasion on such platforms, and for other uses,” until the platforms take certain realistic methods (recognized in the proposed laws) to protect against this kind of infringement. Second, the Notify Consumers Act (S. 3431), would “require on-line marketplaces to disclose certain confirmed information pertaining to significant-volume 3rd bash sellers of purchaser solutions to notify consumers.” https://www.congress.gov/invoice/116th-congress/senate-monthly bill/3431/text. The two of these proposed payments have bipartisan assistance. If enacted, they would give customers and mental property holders greater potential to pursue claims towards on the net marketplaces and the third-social gathering sellers making use of the platforms.
With numerous courts and legislative bodies actively thinking of these issues, on-line marketplace liability is sure to continue being a hot matter in the legislation. We will continue to check this region and will continue to keep our readers apprised of any crucial developments.
© 2020 Proskauer Rose LLP. Nationwide Regulation Review, Volume X, Range 279