Liability of E-Commerce Platforms for Third-Party Defective Products
in: Eva Maria Belser, Pascal Pichonnaz, Hubert Stöckli (Eds.), Le droit sans frontières - Recht ohne Grenzen - Law without Borders, Mélanges pour Franz Werro, Bern 2022, pp. 127-141.
Posted: 7 Jun 2022
Date Written: May 4, 2022
Franz Werro is a lifelong friend and a colleague, but he is even more: as an independent intellectual and social critic, he is the role model I tried to emulate early in my career. He has been instrumental in bolstering the idea that concepts of justice are culture-specific and defined by the social inheritance of the society in question. Sharing this point of view I also think the big corporations that dominate our political economy are hard to regulate in an effective way with domestic policies alone, because the market for the goods and services these corporations offer has become global. In such circumstances, general legislative preferences on the national level tend to leave gaps or inconsistencies in the protection of citizens. The legal challenges associated with defective products sold by third parties on giant e-commerce platforms illustrate this phenomenon.
When I wrote my PhD thesis on product liability under Franz Werro’s supervision, this was not a topic that captured the attention of lawyers. But, with the increase of access to information through the Internet over the last two decades, the liability of online platforms has begun to gain importance. Franz Werro was one of the academics to address the topic. His paper entitled “Les services Internet et la responsabilité civile” influenced judicial decision-making in Switzerland, where the issue had not yet been specifically dealt with by the legislative body.
This article will narrow down the broad range of online providers’ liability to the liability for defective goods sold by foreign sellers on e-commerce platforms. This is an issue of particular concern because third-party producers and suppliers are often located abroad, making obtaining an enforceable judgment difficult for customers. It is legitimate to ask what rights are available to customers in the event a defective good is delivered, for instance, by Amazon, the most recognizable face of the international e-commerce industry.
Keywords: e-commerce, sales law, product liability
JEL Classification: K12, K13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation