New Amazon flex plan faces criticism over liability

Date: Feb 10, 2020

On Jan. 22, 2020, Amazon unveiled its “Flex” delivery service for the first time in Australia. The program hires drivers as independent contractors – not unlike rideshare companies like Uber – allowing them to sign up for four-hour shifts when it is convenient for them. Almost immediately, the company was met with criticism over issues of public liability, as well as other problems, according to The Age.

Unclear Liability

One of the main emerging critiques of Amazon Flex is that it’s unclear who is liable if contracted drivers get into an accident. Amazon provides its contractors with its own insurance coverage, which includes auto liability coverage, third-party property damage insurance and contingent comprehensive coverage, all in addition to the driver’s own insurance. However, in many cases all over the world, Amazon has been able to avoid payouts of any kind when people file suit after being injured by the company’s drivers.

In other instances, crash victims are unaware that vehicles are contracted by Amazon, since they bear no identification, and don’t know who to accuse in the first place, according to The New York Times. Amazon Flex has been available in the U.S. since 2015, and has already faced some of the same critiques it is now dealing with in Australia.

Critics also stated that they believed the demanding delivery timeline that Flex drivers often are asked to work within can increase the risk of an injury. Transport Workers Union National Secretary Michael Kaine made a statement saying that Amazon Flex drivers face “unrealistic time pressures” and calling for increased government regulation of the service.

Amazon has pushed back on any concerns, noting their insurance program for drivers and stating that they follow all pertinent local legislation wherever they are operating.

“Our delivery blocks are designed to ensure drivers have more than enough time to deliver their packages,” said a spokeswoman for the company.

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