Court says Amazon is responsible for the safety of third-party products

The company may have to change its policies.

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A boy rides a hoverboard on the day after Christmas, in San Pedro, California December 26, 2015. Reports of some hoverboards, also known as self-balancing, two-wheeled scooters catching fire have led to an investigation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK        (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Amazon may soon be more accountable for more products than the ones it directly sells. According to the LA Times, a California state appeals court has ruled that Amazon is responsible for the safety of third-party products available through its marketplace following a 2015 hoverboard fire. While the internet giant argued that it was only connecting buyers with sellers, judges determined that there was a "direct link" in distribution that made the company liable.

The company won the initial ruling. At the time, a judge sided with Amazon's view that it was just advertising sellers' products rather than participating in sales.

In a statement to the Times, Amazon said it "invests heavily" in product safety by screening sellers and products. it also keeps watch on the store for hints of problems. The company declined to comment on the appeal court decision, including whether it intended to challenge the ruling at the state Supreme Court.

The decision, if it holds, could force Amazon to change policies. The tech giant may have to step up its vetting process for sellers and be ready to accept liability for safety problems, including lawsuits. Other stores with similar third-party marketplaces would have to follow suit. That, in turn, might be good news for shoppers —you could see fewer sketchy products in online stores, and you'd have a better chance of resolving safety issues.

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