A judge in Tennessee this week ruled that Amazon isn't liable for damages caused by a hoverboard that spontaneously exploded and burned down a family's house, even though they bought it on Amazon's website. The plaintiff claimed that Amazon didn't properly warn her about the dangers they knew existed with the product, but the judge didn't agree.
It's the latest legal victory for Amazon, which has for years fended off litigation related to product quality and safety by arguing that, for a big and growing part of its business, it's just a marketplace. There are buyers on one end and sellers on the other — the argument goes — and Amazon connects them through a popular portal, facilitating the transaction with a sophisticated logistics system.
The courts are reinforcing the power of Amazon's business model as the ultimate middleman. But for American consumers, there's growing cause for concern.
We're all buying more stuff on Amazon. Whether it's the hottest gadget like a hoverboard or drone, health supplies like vitamins, or skin and haircare products, Amazon has become the place where we can get everything quickly and have it delivered in two days.
Increasingly those products are coming from third-party sellers in China and other places all over the world, who are sometimes impossible to find when something goes wrong.
More than half of products sold on Amazon now come from Marketplace merchants.
Amazon said in a statement to CNBC that third-party sellers are "required to comply with all relevant laws and regulations when listing items for sale in our stores." The company said it has measures to prevent suspicious products from being listed and that it removes items when necessary.