issue 150

Boycott news from Ethical Consumer magazine issue 150 September/October 2014.


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Popular author turns down Amazon-sponsored prize

Amazon Web Services malware hosting on the rise

Double victory over Sodastream





Popular author turns down Amazon-sponsored prize

Children’s author Allan Ahlberg has turned down a book prize sponsored by Amazon due to the company’s tax avoidance.

The author, best known for classics such as Peepo and Each Peach Pear Plum, was due to receive the inaugural Booktrust Best Book Awards‘ Lifetime Achievement Award, but declined to accept it. 

In a public letter sent to the Bookseller last week he name-checked Ethical Consumer saying, “it’s [Amazon’s] position as “The UK’s No1 Tax Avoider” (Ethical Consumer) that bothers me.”

Ahlberg is a literary heavyweight who has written more than 150 children’s books in a career spanning nearly four decades, making him one of the most high profile authors yet to speak out against Amazon’s tax avoidance.

He described the Booktrust’s sponsorship deal with Amazon as a “mistake”, and Amazon’s influence on the book trade as “baleful”.

He then went on to say that, “Tax, fairly applied to us all, is a good thing. It pays for schools, hospitals – libraries! When companies like Amazon cheat – paying 0.1% on billions, pretending it is earning money not in the UK, but in Luxembourg – that’s a bad thing. We should surely, at the very least, say that it is bad and on no account give it any support or, by association, respectability.”

Tim Hunt, Amazon Boycott Campaign coordinator at Ethical Consumer, said: “This sends out a really strong message to Amazon and those that work closely with the company that their behaviour, particularly around tax, is unacceptable. People understand the great damage that Amazon are doing to the public purse and the economy in general and we see more and more people taking a stand. We applaud Allan (of whom we and our children are big fans) for taking this stand and we hope it inspires others to do the same.”



Amazon Web Services malware hosting on the rise

New research suggests that Amazon Web Services (AWS) is hosting more malicious software than any of the other major cloud computer storage providers. According to a report published in July by Solutionary, an internet security research company, the number of malware distributors using the service has more than doubled in the last six months.

Malware is any software used to disrupt computer operations, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems. It is often used by criminals to steal money from banks, companies or individuals.

The researchers said that, out of the top ten Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and hosting companies surveyed, the proportion of malware-hosting websites served from Amazon infrastructure more than doubled from 16% in the last quarter of 2013 to 41% in the second quarter of 2014.

According to internet news website The Register, the reason is Amazon’s scale and low prices. “This means any wannabe hacker can buy server images from crooks and deploy them on AWS to build a network of malware-spreading websites.”

In an interview with The Register, researcher Chad Kahl said that companies may not be investing as much as they need to be to keep the issue under control.

“When we’re talking about someone as big as Amazon or GoDaddy it would be a significant investment both in architecture and in time to go through and monitor everything  as it’s being put up – regular scans – to detect everything and take down these groups.”

Amazon said: “AWS employs a number of mitigation techniques, both manual and automated, to prevent the misuse of the services. We have automatic systems in place that detect and block many attacks before they leave our infrastructure. Our terms of usage are clear and when we find misuse we take action quickly and shut it down. Companies that do see malicious activity originating from AWS should contact us immediately.”.

Read more about Amazon Web Services >



BDS update

Double victory over SodaStream

Palestinian solidarity activists were celebrating in July after a double victory over SodaStream, a company with facilities in the occupied West Bank.

First came the news that SodaStream was closing its flagship eco-store in Brighton. This was followed a day later by a decision from John Lewis to stop stocking SodaStream products.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) had held fortnightly Saturday protests outside John Lewis’ flagship Oxford Street store in London. Brighton and Hove PSC held weekly demonstrations outside the Brighton store.

“The double blow dealt to SodaStream this week should serve as a warning to other settlement companies – their business is not wanted here,” the PSC said in a statement.

Sarah Colborne, director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said in a media release: “The news that SodaStream is closing its main UK store and that John Lewis is taking SodaStream products off its shelves is a major success for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

SodaStream’s manufacturing plant is located in the Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim, one of the biggest in the occupied West Bank. Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law.

Seven Palestinian villages were destroyed and their inhabitants displaced in order to build the Maaleh Adumim settlement.

Brighton and Hove PSC issued a statement saying: “The closure of SodaStream’s flagship UK store in Brighton is just one step in a campaign to send a clear message to the Israeli government and the international community that, at the grassroots level, people of conscience are taking action to force Israel to comply with international law and to bring about justice for the Palestinian people. Congratulations to the people of Brighton and Hove, who can tell the difference between ethical and unethical.”

PSC also said it would continue to campaign nationally to persuade other retailers, including Argos and Sainsbury’s, to stop selling SodaStream.

In her statement, Colborne of PSC also said that: “UK retailers should note John Lewis’ decision to ditch SodaStream, and take heed of UK government business guidelines which warn companies of the potential reputational damage of trading with settlement firms.”

John Lewis said in a statement that it has stocked SodaStream for the past four years but, “in light of recent sales levels, coupled with a new direction for our cook and dine assortment, we’ve taken the decision to no longer stock the range”.



Israel boycott web searches increase by more than 1000% as Gaza conflict deepens

One of the Ethical Consumer website’s most popular pages is its list of current consumer boycotts. 

Normally 200-300 people each day visit this page, and of these, around 20% will go on to visit our Israel Boycotts page which provides details on a range of organisations providing information to consumers about the boycott. 

From July 8th however, when Israel launched its ‘operation protective edge’, daily visits to the Israel Boycotts page soared by more than 1300% as people seek out actions they can take to join the protest against this most one-sided of conflicts. Brands mentioned on the page include:

Mejoul dates, Lloyds TSB, Caterpillar, Volvo, Daewoo and JCB, Connex and Alstrom, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Nestlé. 

At the time of writing (24th July), according to the Gaza  Health Ministry, 732 Palestinians had been killed in the fighting, including at least 166 children, and more than 4,600 people had been wounded. The United Nations estimates that more than 70% were civilians. The Israeli military said 230 militants have been killed and that 32 Israeli soldiers have died plus three civilians.