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Consumer Reports: California Senate Judiciary Committee advances strong product safety bill to rein in Amazon and other online platforms

CR urges all policymakers to support AB 3262, to ensure the online marketplace puts consumer safety first

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — AB 3262, a bill endorsed by Consumer Reports that ensures online marketplaces are held strictly liable for defective products to the same extent as brick-and-mortar retailers, advanced out of the California Senate Judiciary Committee on a 7-0-2 vote yesterday. The bill, which incentivizes these sites to do a better job vetting sellers and removing harmful products from their listings, now heads to the full State Senate for consideration.

“As people increasingly shop online during the pandemic, consumers need to have the same safety assurances from websites like Amazon as they would from a brick and mortar store,” said Justin Brookman, Director of Privacy and Technology Policy at Consumer Reports. “With uncertainty in the courts, California’s legislature should move forward with this bill to incentivize online marketplaces to protect consumers.”

Currently, platforms like Amazon do not necessarily have the same product safety responsibilities under state law as brick-and-mortar retailers. If a retailer sells a defective product that causes injury to a consumer, that retailer is held strictly liable for the damages, under well-established case law. Despite the fact that online marketplaces benefit from the sale of products on their sites, companies such as Amazon have argued in court that it is not liable for defective products sold on their site as a brick-and-mortar retailer might be. The courts have not definitively resolved the issue, though a state appeals court recently ruled that Amazon can be held liable for defective products sold by their third-party sellers.

“Because many online sellers are located outside of the U.S. or lack sufficient identifying information, it can be difficult to hold anyone accountable for dangerous products — even in the case of death, serious injury, or significant property damage,” said Maureen Mahoney, Policy Analyst at Consumer Reports. “Platforms simply aren’t doing enough to keep harmful products off their sites, and this important legislation will bring some much-needed accountability to online marketplaces. Consumer Reports urges the full Senate to support this bill.”

Investigations by Consumer Reports and others have found dangerous products offered for sale on online marketplaces, and Consumer Reports recently presented testimony on this issue at a U.S. House subcommittee hearing. 

Contact: Cyrus Rassool, cyrus.rassool@consumer.org