Amazon, eBay Fight Legislation That Would Unmask Third-Party Sellers
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Amazon and a who’s who of online-only retailers are trying to kill proposed federal and state legislation that would make the companies disclose contact information for third-party sellers. The bills would force Amazon and others to verify the identities of third-party sellers and provide consumers with ways to contact the stores. The proposed legislation is pitting brick-and-mortar retailers — including Home Depot, Walgreens, and JC Penney, which support the bills — against online retailers like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, Poshmark, and others, which argue that the legislation would harm small sellers. […] The online retailers argue that the bills would compromise the privacy of third-party sellers. On some platforms, the majority of merchants run their businesses out of their homes. Etsy, for example, says 97 percent of its sellers do. A survey of Amazon sellers found that 70 percent have work outside of their Amazon businesses, suggesting that they, too, run the business from their homes.

That anonymity, though, provides cover for fraudsters. It’s not uncommon to find counterfeit and potentially harmful items on marketplace sites. In 2018, the Government Accountability Office ordered 47 items, including shoes, travel mugs, cosmetics, and phone chargers, from third-party sellers on “popular consumer websites” and determined that 20 of them were counterfeit. Even non-counterfeit items bought from third-party sellers have been implicated in consumer harm. In April 2018, a 19-month-old in Texas was injured after ingesting a battery that fell out of a loose battery compartment in a third-party Apple TV remote. The parents asked Amazon to stop selling the defective product and requested contact information for Hu Xi Jie, who ran the Amazon store “USA Shopping 7693” that sold the remote. Hu Xi Jie never responded, and Amazon was not able to locate the individual. The parents sued Amazon in Texas state court, arguing that the retailer is liable for the defective product. Amazon, on the other hand, says it serves as a middleman and bears no liability. It’s that argument, among others, that has brick-and-mortar retailers pushing for changes. Consumer product laws hold businesses like Target and Home Depot liable for injuries if the stores do not take sufficient measures to keep defective products from reaching consumers. Online marketplaces haven’t been subject to those rules since they don’t control third-party sellers.

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