Is the Freight Train of Responsibility Rerouting to Amazonia?

May 3, 2021

A Hoverboard Burst into Flames. It Could Change the Way Amazon Does Business” is from the consistently fascinating business wizards at the Los Angeles Times. (No, this is not a report about a new owner, newsroom turmoil, or the business school case of the future.) The newspaper reports that a three California “justices” decided that Amazon cannot pass the buck. I noted this statement in the write up:

“We are persuaded that Amazon’s own business practices make it a direct link in the vertical chain of distribution under California’s strict liability doctrine,” the justices ruled, rejecting Amazon’s claim that its site is merely a platform connecting buyers and sellers.

Yikes, do these legal professionals believe that a company, operating in an essentially unregulated environment, is responsible for the products it sells? The answer to this question seems to be “yes.” Remember, however, these factoids about modern legal practices:

  1. A company like Amazon lives and works in Amazonia. There are different rules and regulations in this digital country. As a result, the experts from Amazonia have considerable resources at their disposal. Legal processes will unfold in legal time, which is different from one click buyer time.
  2. Amazon has money and can hire individuals who can ensure that legal procedures are observed, considered, and subjected to applicable legal processes. That means drag out proceedings if possible.
  3. Amazon will keep on doing what has made the firm successful. Massive, quick change is possible, but in Amazonia there are Amazon time zones. California is just one time zone in the 24×7 world of the mom and pop online bookstore.

I want to be optimistic that after decades of ignoring the digital behemoths government may take meaningful action. But these are country-scale entities. Why not hire the lawyers working on this California matter and let them help shape Amazon’s response. The revolving door is effective when it delivers money, influence, and bonuses faster than the Great State of California loses population. Hopes for controlling Amazon could go up in flames too.

Stephen E Arnold, May 3, 2021

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