The Brave New World of In-Home Delivery Systems

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Retail giants Walmart and Amazon have recently announced new in-home and in-trunk delivery formats that could revolutionize the way we receive consumer goods, while also raising several potential legal issues.

In an era where consumers are accustomed to receiving everything quickly, retailers are developing innovative methods to increase delivery speed and security. While speedy delivery is no longer an issue, problems remain with stolen packages and so called porch pirates. To remedy this issue, Walmart unveiled a new delivery method that allows delivery employees to enter the customer’s home and place items inside the home, even inside the refrigerator. Walmart’s delivery program will use “smart-home” technology to remotely open doors while simultaneously triggering security to ensure safety. Similarly, Amazon announced a delivery system used in conjunction with “smart” license plate frames that allow employees to open the customer’s vehicle trunk to deliver purchases.

These delivery methods raise a host of privacy, security and legal concerns for both retailers and homeowners. While video surveillance reduces the likelihood of theft during deliveries, employees could easily snoop to facilitate a later theft.  While employers are typically only liable for their employee’s actions when acting in the course and scope of employment, these delivery systems could conceivable lead to liability for off the clock wrongdoing based on on-the-clock access.  They could lead to potential injuries such as dog bites, slips and falls and other hazards associated with entering unknown spaces, and raising potential premises liability exposure for homeowners.

Ultimately, retailers should impose rigorous training on delivery personnel and consider disclaimers for risks associated with in-home and in-car delivery systems. In the brave new world of retail, convenience and customer service is king, but litigation risks remain.

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