Amazon, tax and the high street

Months ago my excellent local bookshop in Sydenham had a notice in its window giving reasons to shop locally rather than online. The sixth was that they pay their taxes. Now independent bookshops across the country have posters along the same lines: “Your money, your bookshop, your community, we pay our taxes.”

CPRE has done lots of work to promote local food webs, the links between different people and businesses who grow, process, sell and buy foods within a local areas. Strong local food webs have great social and environmental advantages but they depend on a vibrant high street, and a high street needs a mix of shops. So concern that Amazon is competing unfairly against local bookshops has some relevance to CPRE.

About a month ago I started writing to Amazon, as a customer, about its tax position. I first wrote on 18 November, saying that I was not inclined to use Amazon again until it started to pay reasonable UK taxes. A man named Denis got back to me straight away to say ‘we appreciate your feedback’ and that my query had been forwarded to the appropriate team internally. Beneath his signature were the words: ‘Your feedback is helping us build Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.’ I was glad to be of service.

One reason that Amazon does so well is that it has first class customer service. Complain about a late delivery and they are on the case immediately. But they are less impressive if you ask them why they are not paying their fair share of taxation.

The appropriate team internally did not get back to me, so I chased. On 26 November I received the following email.

I understand that you are waiting for our team to contact regarding your recent feedback on Tax issue in the UK.

Though your comments have been forwarded to our team for investigation, for account privacy reasons, we can’t disclose the outcome of any investigation, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your vigilance and for highlighting this. Information received from our customers performs a vital role in maintaining the integrity and security of our Website.

I hope this helps. Your understanding in this case would be appreciable.

We hope to see you soon.

Warmest regards

I tried again a couple of weeks later, suggesting that by now they should be able to come up with a line in response to customer concerns about their tax position.

On 7 December a third person wrote to me, with warmest regards, saying ‘we appreciate your feedback and have forwarded it to the appropriate team internally’. I logged on to my home emails last night and the appropriate team internally still seems to be struggling with a response. At present, Amazon seems appreciably challenged, customer-centricity-wise…

1 Response to “Amazon, tax and the high street”

  1. 1 Shaun Spiers December 24, 2012 at 6:58 am

    Update: on 20 December I received another email from Amazon:


    ‘Our Customer Service department didn’t receive the e-mail message below. If you still need help, please visit one of the pages below so we can quickly provide you with additional information or give assistance via e-mail or phone.’

    The llinks given provided various ways of reporting missing deliveries and such like, but no way of reporting missing tax payments. I’ve tried again, suggesting that Amazon really ought to be able to located its customer service department, but I fear I am caught in a loop.

    Merry Christmas!

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