Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
doj, drugs, rogue pharmacies, secondary liability

doj, ups

UPS Coughs Up $40 Million Because It Delivered Drugs From Rogue Pharmacies

from the uh,-secondary-liability? dept

Whenever we talk about things like "secondary liability" and why it doesn't make sense to blame a company for something their users do, we'll often use examples like pointing out that it's inappropriate to blame AT&T if someone makes a bomb threat over the phone, or to blame Ford for someone driving too fast. Another example in the "of course that's silly" list may have to removed however: the inappropriateness of blaming UPS or Fedex for what's in the packages they deliver. That one now has to be retired. Because the good old US government has made UPS forfeit $40 million to the government for shipping drugs from "illegal internet pharmacies." Details on what actually happened here are sparse, but the DOJ will be celebrating this one, despite almost none of the important details being shared.

UPS put out a statement that doesn't sound even remotely forced upon it by DOJ people holding guns.
"We believe we have an obligation and responsibility to help curb the sale and shipment of drugs sold through illegal Internet pharmacies," said Susan Rosenberg, a UPS spokeswoman.
Of course, what is an "illegal internet pharmacy"? There's a bit of an issue there because the DOJ thinks that an illegal internet pharmacy includes that Canadian pharmacy that is much cheaper, but which is making perfectly legitimate drugs and then shipping them -- gray market style -- into the US. That's a very different picture than the "illegal internet pharmacy" selling sugar pills or worse. But, here's the thing about all that: for all the talk of the risks and dangerous of illegal internet pharmacies there are amazingly few stories of any actual harm. And, in fact, various random tests of the drugs coming from "illegal internet pharmacies" suggest that, for the most part, they're safe (and frequently appear to actually be what they say on the box). So what is the DOJ protecting us from here? The scourge of more affordable legal drugs?

The bigger issue, however, is the question of secondary liability. I don't want UPS going through my packages to make sure they're not illegal drugs. Perhaps the government showed direct plans and strategies by UPS to attract illegal pharmacies, but from the outside, given the information that's been revealed, it looks like the real problem is why is the DOJ even bothering? If UPS and Fedex are going to have to start checking what's inside packages to avoid getting itself fined again, that's a really bad and dangerous precedent.

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  1. icon
    Valkor (profile), 30 Mar 2013 @ 6:01am

    Re: what is an illegal internet pharmacy????

    "you should know it is not legal to send post or parcels without disclosing the contents, and if the contents are illegal both the senders and the carriers are liable.
    And providing your id, and address details."

    Actually, that is not the case in the USA. Logically, how should a carrier be liable for contents that were never disclosed to them? The UPS is not an enforcement agency.

    "IF UPS is provided a list of clients who conduct illegal activities using UPS, and UPS does nothing about it, but knows those clients are using their service they are profiting from crime. And are complicit in that crime."

    America has this great thing called "rule of law" that we strive to live under. The goal is to keep the rules clear. To the best of my reading, none of the DOJ documents show that UPS was served an injunction against dealing with certain clients, nor do they show that UPS continued to do business with people after they were convicted of pharmacy drug crime. A request from a police department is neither a court order nor a law, and does not have the force of either. It may be immoral for a company to do business with a likely criminal, but it is not illegal. An accused criminal is not guilty until proven so.

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