Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Amazon: just another greedy retailer

Amazon faces criticism for how it treats competitors and suppliers. Its behaviour is no surprise, and thanks to the internet we can keep it under scrutiny

Amazon fulfilment centre
An Amazon fulfilment centre in Swansea. The company has faced a barrage of criticism for how much tax it pays, and how it treats suppliers. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty
Amazon is the retailer everybody loves, and loves to hate. There's a huge range of products that are only a screen and a click (or fingertip touch) away, with low prices allegedly helped by elaborate tax avoidance schemes.
There's the super-convenient Kindle, with content that is the subject of hardball negotiations, such as those with the publisher Hachette, which has led to some books being "made unavailable" for order. Most recently, Amazon has apparently stopped people from reading some cartoon ebooks bought through Amazon, which used to be available on smartphones. You can now read them only on Kindle. Unsurprisingly, the internet is outraged. Amazon is being a monopolist! It's shutting off access to content! Take it to court!

Not so fast. Having followed a number of technology anti-trust cases, it's clear you're not going to get any lawyer interested in prosecuting Amazon for lowering the prices that consumers pay. Nor are you going to get much of a reaction if you complain that content on other platforms is being restricted. (You can buy those same cartoons for the iPad or iPhone via Apple's iBooks store. They won't work on the Kindle. You don't see anyone yelling that Apple is being a monopolist for that.)


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