Amazon could find itself in court over failing to notify its customers over toxic elements like deadly mercury in its products.
The California Supreme Court has upheld a decision that permits customers to sue the company over the failure.
The court refused Amazon’s attorneys’ request to reconsider a lower court verdict that stated Amazon violated Proposition 65, which compels firms to warn customers about items they create or sell that include chemicals known to cause cancer, reproductive damage, or birth defects.
The case involves a complaint filed in Alameda County alleging that the online retail giant intentionally marketed skin-lightening treatments on its website for years while knowing about hazardous mercury levels in such creams.
Mercury is toxic to pregnant mothers and their fetuses.
According to the lawsuit, some of the items manufactured by third parties but offered on Amazon contained mercury levels thousands of times higher than the federal legal limit in the United States.
Amazon said in a statement safety is a top priority and that the products in question have long since been removed.
It said: “We require that all products comply with applicable laws and regulations, and we have proactive measures in place to prevent suspicious or non-compliant products from being listed and we monitor the products sold in our stores for product safety concerns.”
The action of the Supreme Court permits the earlier court judgment to be utilized as a precedent in state courts.
However, because California has such a huge market share, whatever efforts Amazon takes to comply with Proposition 65 may have a far broader impact on customers, as per Rachel Doughty, a plaintiff’s attorney in the dispute.
Doughty said: “That could look like removal of products containing carcinogens or reproductive toxins from Amazon’s site, or Amazon taking measures to ensure that a warning is provided … so consumers can take steps to avoid exposure to such chemicals,”
A court rejected the complaint in 2019 after ruling that Amazon was shielded by a portion of the federal Communications Decency Act that shields websites from responsibility for information posted by third parties.
However, in March, a state appeals court ruled that Amazon is more than just a site for businesses to showcase their available products; it also stores, sells and ships them.
The court stated that a pharmacy that sold the identical creams would be obliged to post Proposition 65 warnings.