A recent Panorama documentary and Guardian article finally did it for me. They revealed many disturbing truths about the company’s tax and employment practices that could not be ignored. In 2013, for example, Amazon UK paid just £2.4m in corporation tax on sales of £4.2 BILLION. This might sound like a nice tidy sum, until you learn that they also received £2.5M in grants from the UK government the same year – in other words, slightly more than their corporation tax obligations. So, as far as the tax authorities were concerned, Amazon was a net loss to the coffers.
I presume that Amazon gets these grants on the basis that they create employment. The kind of jobs they create, however, are insecure and low paid, with people treated more like machine slaves. According to research independent retailers employ 47 people for every $10m in sales. By contrast, Amazon employs only 14 people per $10m of revenue. Its turnover of £4.2bn in 2013, represented a net loss of 23,000 jobs to the UK alone.
Some companies refuse to be bullied by Amazon and make a stand. The director of Lush cosmetics, Mark Constantine, has refused to do business with them and paid the price – literally – having spent half a million pounds defending his trademark in court, as Amazon have been using the Lush name to direct customers to other products on its website. Constantine asserts that tax avoidance is not just the way Amazon does business, it IS its business:
The only way they can afford to run it is by not paying tax. If they had to behave in a more conventional way, they would struggle.
There are a number of lesser known UK alternatives to Amazon. Ethical Consumer has a handy guide.
You won’t be alone. The Abbey Bookshop in Paris recently started a campaign asking its customers to commit to buying only from independent booksellers and since then a number of others have also taken up the cause:
Not Just Amazon
Did you know that as well as their own megasite, Amazon also own a number of other online brands including DVD rental site LoveFilm and the second hand book network AbeBooks. So if you’re really committed to boycotting Amazon, you’ll have to find alternatives for these as well. If you currently use LoveFilm I would recommend Cinema Paradiso or Netflix instead. For second hand books, try the aforementioned Waterstones Marketplace or Alibris.co.uk.