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Not liable for faulty products: Amazon on consumer disputes

The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission is adjudicating this issue which will fix the liability of e-commerce players.

business Updated: Aug 21, 2017 00:20 IST
Jeevan Prakash Sharma
Jeevan Prakash Sharma
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Amazon,Xiaomi Redmi Note 3,E-commerce
Amazon boxes are seen stacked for delivery in the Manhattan borough of New York City.(REUTERS)

Should an e-commerce marketplace be held equally liable along with the manufacturer for sale of a defective product?

The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) is adjudicating this issue which will fix the liability of e-commerce players, a booming sector in India.

In this case, the popular e-commerce website, Amazon Seller Service Private Limited has challenged a decision of the Chandigarh State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission in the NCDRC holding that it cannot be held liable for the sale of any defective product along with the manufacturer.

Amazon’s contention is that it neither sells nor offers to sell any products and merely provides an online marketplace where independent third party sellers can list their product for sale.

Gopal Krishna, a resident of sector 27 in Chandigarh, raised this question first in the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum when his Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 mobile handset, which he had bought from Amazon on May 11, 2016, turned out to be defective within two months from the date of buying.

Krishna handed over the phone to the Xiaomi’s customer care centre but when it was not repaired on time, he wrote to Amazon which asked Krishan to get ‘dead on arrival report’ from the customer care executive. The executive refused to provide such a certificate.

When Krishna didn’t get his handset, he first sent a legal notice on July 25, 2016 to Xiaomi and Amazon and when he didn’t get any positive response, he filed a consumer complaint before the district forum on August 8, 2016.

The district forum ordered Xiaomi as well as Amazon to jointly refund Rs 9998 being the cost of the mobile phone along with R10,000 as compensation and Rs 5000 towards litigation expenses.

The district forum also rejected the Amazon’s contention that it cannot be burdened with liability saying that it was the bounden duty of the facilitator to ensure that goods sold are manufactured as per quality standard.

It said that if the goods purchased through online are found not up to the mark, online portal through which goods were purchased, cannot escape its liability.

Though Xiaomi bore that mobile cost along with compensation and the litigation expenses, Amazon, stung by the order, preferred an appeal in the State Commission which rejected Amazon’s contention.

“Contention of Counsel for the appellant (Amazon) that as per terms and conditions of sale, no liability can be fastened upon the appellant, is liable to be rejected. An agent, who sells a product, is duty bound to ensure its quality, and if the product is found defective, agent shall be vicariously liable for the loss caused to the purchaser, alongwith the manufacturer of the product,” the state commission held.

Now Amazon has approached the NCDRC with the same plea that it is not liable for any defect in a product as it merely provides a marketplace.

The NCDRC will hear the matter next month.

First Published: Aug 21, 2017 00:20 IST