By Hannah Rhodes, Consumer Watchdog Associate
As of Sept. 1, Amazon has expanded its A-to-z Guarantee to cover property damage or personal injury associated with defective products sold on its platform.
For more than half of the transactions on its website, Amazon operates as a middle man for third-party sellers. For these transactions, Amazon functions as the facilitator between the seller and customer. With the expansion of the A-to-z guarantee, Amazon will now also be the facilitator between the seller and the customer if a defective product leads to injury or property damage.
Customers can now file a defective product claim using the A-to-z claim process. If the claim is found valid by Amazon, the customer will be paid directly by Amazon if the total damages amount to less than $1,000. The seller is not responsible for this amount paid to the customer if it abides by Amazon policies and holds valid insurance. Amazon says more than 80 percent of claims amount to less than $1,000. But Amazon may pay a higher amount if the seller is unresponsive or if the seller rejects a claim that Amazon found to be valid.
Amazon’s new policy comes at a time when courts have been asked the question who is responsible for defective products when they are bought from an online platform that is acting as the go-between for the seller and the purchaser. In August 2020, in a case involving a replacement laptop battery, a California state appeals court found that Amazon could be held responsible for defective products like a traditional retailer. But in March 2021, in a case involving a remote control, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled differently. It found that under Texas law, Amazon did not operate as a traditional retailer and therefore could not be held responsible. While Amazon’s potential responsibility for defective products remains unclear, the A-to-z claim process is an important step to help customers more efficiently when they experience incidents with defective products.
Amazon’s overview and its terms and conditions span more than 1,600 words. Here is a breakdown of what Amazon customers need to know before using the A-to-z claims process:
When filing a claim through Amazon, the customer cannot pursue another forum, such as a court filing or arbitration, to get compensation while the claim is being reviewed.
Amazon says that typically, the claim is resolved in 90 days. However, customers are able to withdraw their claim at any time by giving Amazon notice in writing, with the claim identification number, at email@example.com.
Customers may be entitled to more than $1,000, dependent on the property damage and personal injury caused by the defective product. Amazon may cover fees for medical expenses, lost wages and property damages for up to $1 million.
Amazon says it will not pay for non-economic damages, business losses, consequential and incidental damages, attorney fees, punitive damages and other losses.
When filing a claim, the customer must provide enough information for Amazon to investigate the claim. By filing a claim, the customer also gives Amazon the right to contact any third parties who may have knowledge about the claim, including medical providers, insurers and witnesses.
Filing a claim also means that the customer allows Amazon to share information about the claim with third parties necessary to investigate the claim. This includes: the seller, the seller’s insurer and Amazon’s insurer. Amazon’s privacy notice explains how it handles customer’s personal information when sharing information to third parties.
Customers are not obligated to accept Amazon’s offer on their claim, but if they do accept, they are agreeing that the claim is settled. The customer may also have to sign a release and assignment form so Amazon can pursue its own compensation from other sources.
The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.