issue 145

Boycott news from Ethical Consumer magazine issue 145 November/December 2013.


On this page:

Amazon boycott update

Australian government moves to outlaw boycotts

Calls for Cadbury boycott over tax

SodaStream day of action



Protesters outside a Sodastream retailer. See below for more information.


Amazon boycott update


Amazon Critics in America

It’s been an interesting couple of months in the fight against Amazon across the pond with two US authors speaking out against the online behemoth. In September, writer Jaime Clarke set up the site He issued the plea to all those buying his latest book ‘Vernon Downs’, which has been published by a new independent label called Roundabout.

He says on the site, “I see small presses come and go—they usually publish a book or two and then fold after running out of money. For many small publishers like Roundabout, Amazon accounts for a large portion of sales, but the publisher realizes very little of the purchase price owing to Amazon’s discounting policies.

”The author is also offering 50% of the money made on each sale to a local book store of the readers choice. He finally adds that “In a further effort to thwart Amazon, if you order through Roundabout’s website, Roundabout will ship your copy of Vernon Downs in December. Amazon can’t start selling the book until next April.” We’re also trying not to sell our own book ‘People over Capital’ on Amazon.

Meanwhile in a recent Guardian interview the US novelist Jonathan Franzen has likened Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, to one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

He wrote: “In my own little corner of the world, which is to say American fiction, Jeff Bezos of Amazon may not be the antichrist, but he surely looks like one of the four horsemen. Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion.”

He adds that: “As fewer and fewer readers are able to find their way, amid all the noise and disappointing books and phony reviews, to the work produced by the new generation of this kind of writer, Amazon is well on its way to making writers into the kind of prospectless workers whom its contractors employ in its warehouses, labouring harder for less and less, with no job security, because the warehouses are situated in places where they’re the only business hiring,”

Away from literary circles those at the sharp end of Amazon’s working practices are suing the company after contending they should be paid for off-the-clock security checks. The Daily News Journal reports that the employees filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Nashville, saying they aren’t paid for the time it takes to go through security before and after their shifts which, in some cases, can last up to half an hour.A Court of Appeals in Nevada last year ruled in favour of  workers in a similar case. Two similar lawsuits have been filed against Amazon in a federal court in Louisville.


Amazon lobbying for tax?

Earlier in the year we reported that the US senate was discussing the Marketplace Fairness Act which would introduce a uniform sales tax for internet shopping. What we didn’t know was that Amazon is apparently actively lobbying for this legislation to be passed. The Seattle Post reports that even though Amazon is a big beneficiary of tax-free shopping, it wants the legislation passed
to free it from “litigious confrontations with the growing number of states coming after it for uncollected taxes.” Somehow this doesn’t ring true.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit organisation in Washington, DC, the company has already spent $1.7 million on lobbying so far this year. From October 2012 to June this year, Amazon paid Patton Boggs $500,000 for the services of nine lobbyists, according to federal lobbying reports.

Amazon has lobbyists at two other firms working wholly or in part on the sales-tax bill. In all, Amazon has 25 lobbyists handling the issue. The bill was Amazon’s top concern, accounting for nearly as many visits to lawmakers as electronic privacy, skilled-worker visas and all other issues combined. No doubt they’ll be making sure that the wording of the legislation is fair to Amazon – rather than fair in general.



More boycott news

Australian government moves to outlaw boycotts

The Australian government is looking to make consumer boycotts illegal.

Reports from the country suggest that green groups seeking boycotts of products linked to alleged poor environmental practices may soon be liable for prosecution under consumer law.

Parliamentary secretary for agriculture Richard Colbeck told The Australian newspaper that the move would prevent green groups from holding companies to ransom in their markets.

“We’ll be looking at the way some of the environmental groups work because we are very concerned about some of the activities they conduct in the markets,” Senator Colbeck said. “They have exemptions for secondary boycott activities under the Consumer and Competition Act. We are going to have a complete review of the act.”

Greens Party leader Christine Milne said the party would “do anything in our power to stop this change going through.It’s a really bad proposition that comes from an ideologically ridiculous place,” she told reporters.

The move has garnered support from industry especially those exporting timber and live animals. The Wilderness Society was also critical of the move.

“It’s an odd move by a pro-free market government to try to protect businesses from consumers receiving credible information about their products,” the Wilderness Society’s national director, Lyndon Schneiders, said. “Government can’t protect companies who don’t have a social licence, as was witnessed with the spectacular collapse of one-time logging giant Gunns Limited in Tasmania.”

At the same time Senator Colbeck is also lobbying UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to rescind the previous government’s listing of an additional 100,000 hectares of Tasmania’s forests.



Calls for Cadbury boycott over tax

Campaigners from the Methodist Tax Justice Network have launch a campaign against Cadbury over the tax affairs of its parent company Mondelez. An article in the Financial Times, revealed that in the decade prior to the takeover, between 2000 – 2010, Cadbury were engaged in ‘aggressive tax avoidance’, and paid an average of just £6.4m Corporation Tax on annual profits of over £100m.

Tax-dodging schemes included sheltering £400m in the Cayman Islands to wipe £9m off their tax bill in a single year, and a complex transfer pricing arrangement codenamed ‘Chaffinch’ which allowed Cadbury to ‘save’ £17m between 2006-8.

Further research from campaigners has shown that Swissbased Mondelez has eight subsidiaries registered in the Netherlands where many companies, such as Starbucks, benefit from sweatheart deals. The company also has subsidiaries registered in Delaware (USA), Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Meanwhile The Wall Street Journal revealed that Cadbury India managed to avoid paying $46m in taxes by building a ‘phantom factory’ in the state of Himachal Pradesh, to gain a tax exemption meant for companies with operational plants in the state before 31st March 2010. They couldn’t possibly have begun commercial production before January 2011.

The activists are now calling for a boycott of Cadbury “until we see evidence that Cadbury are paying tax commensurate with their sales in all countries in which they operate, we will refuse to buy from a company who avoid making their appropriate contributions to wider society.”

They are asking consumers to write to the management. You can email the Mondelez board at:



SodaStream day of action

On 28th September a National Day of Action took place throughout the country in support of the SodaStream boycott.

The day of action saw demonstrations in 10 cities including in Lancaster, Sheffield, Cardiff, London, and Brighton.

John Lewis was one of the main targets, with over 50 protesters in London, and many others in Aberdeen, Cardiff and Sheffield. Campaigners from Aberdeen said that, “the machines had been taken off the shelves of all stores and that they were now only being sold online. Still selling the syrups in store”.

Campaigners say that the company is directly involved in the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

The main SodaStream factory is in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone in the West Bank. Mishor Adumim is part of Ma’ale Adumim, one of the largest Israeli settlements. The establishment of this town has, according to a report by NGO’s, seen one of the largest expropriations of private Palestinian land during the occupation.

More information from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.