HOUSTON - Amazon has announced a new policy that could benefit some unhappy consumers, and save the company a lot of time in court.
It's a partial response to a question that has rippled through the courts: When you buy something 'on' Amazon, did Amazon sell it to you? In June, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Amazon is not the 'seller' of third-party products purchased from its marketplace. With more cases like that one, Amazon is cutting to the chase and offering to settle 'some' of those complaints.
An industry estimate suggests there are two million third-party vendors selling their wares on Amazon, from all around the globe. When consumers make a purchase, sometimes it comes directly from the vendor, and sometimes Amazon handles the delivery through their vast infrastructure.
If the product is a dud, Amazon's got a system to return it. For those occasions, however, when the third party bears all the responsibility, the online retailer is offering to step in.
In a blog post, Amazon says it will pay up to $1,000 to people who suffer property-damage, or injury, from third-party products sold on its platform.
The post reads, in part, "If a seller does not respond to a claim, Amazon will step in to directly address the immediate customer concern, bear the cost ourselves, and separately pursue the seller."
Houston attorney Casey Garrett thinks the announcement is a win for most consumers, and for Amazon.
"It's very difficult, for the average person, to see where Amazon starts and stops, and the third-party sellers come in," she says.
She thinks the policy offers quick resolution for 80% of complaints that Amazon says this covers, takes some of the scrutinies off the company, and reduces the time it spends in court.
"It might be a reasonable settlement for some, but for somebody who's seriously injured or has serious property damage, they are going to want to go to court and that's certainly going to be an option available to them," says Garrett.
While Amazon continues to work to distance itself from liability on third-party products, the online retailers say this new policy doesn't change that position. It may, however, offer a quicker resolution to complaints when it goes into effect on September 1.