Buying DVDs and Blu Rays without Amazon
Within the UK, DVDs, Blu-Rays and CDs are the second most popular items purchased over the internet, after clothes. This is unsurprising given the recent decline of HMV which has left buying DVDs and Blu-Ray discs from high street shops more difficult.
Blockbuster, Asda, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s all sell DVDs within their stores. The other companies featured in this product guide sell DVDs through their websites. Blockbuster also offers rental of DVDs (see our report ‘LoveFilm HateAmazon’ on Film & TV streaming and DVD rental).
Some of the companies featured in this report specialise in certain categories of films. For example, Dogwoof specialises in documentaries about social issues whilst DVDs sold through the Channel 4 and BBC websites are mainly of programmes or films produced by the companies themselves.
MovieMail, however, could be described as the UK’s ethical answer to Amazon. The company sells a wide selection of DVDs and Blu-Ray films including recent releases and obscure film categories. The website doesn’t just offer DVDs to buy but also does reviews and blogs. It has a policy of giving the most editorial coverage to small, independent publishers.
The price of a DVD from MovieMail is a slightly higher than Amazon. However the company states that: all its staff are paid above the living wage for their place of residence; all DVDs and Blu-Rays are shipped from a single warehouse in the UK to help minimise the environmental impact; and that the company does not exploit any tax loopholes.
Tax and DVDs
Before April 2012, many DVD and CD internet retailers were benefiting from the ‘Low Value Consignment Relief’ (LVCR) scheme which enabled items to be sent from the Channel Islands without having any VAT applied to them.
The scheme, according to HMRC, was never intended to to allow companies to undercut mainland rivals by cutting out VAT. However it was estimated in 2012 that 75% of all international parcels delivered to the UK originated from the Channel Islands. The closing of the scheme led to companies such as Play.com shutting down its retail business in the Channel Islands to focus on its marketplace.
In November 2012 The Hut Group was reported to have shifted its warehouse from Guernsey to a site outside Chicago. The Hut has been discovered to buy goods from suppliers – including in Britain – before sending them on 7,000 mile round trip via the US before they reach consumers in Britain. This meant that The Hut did not have to charge VAT to UK customers buying goods for less than £15, the threshold under which LVCR applies.
In research conducted by Ethical Consumer it was discovered that Base.com was fulfilling its payments through its Swiss subsidiary.
Wowhd.com failed to produce a VAT receipt but, when the DVD arrived, the postage stated that it had been sent from Hong Kong, a country on our list of tax havens.
Dvdsource.co.uk is owned by Offshore Media Jersey Limited. The company receives a tax avoidance mark because its UHC is based in a tax haven.
BBC Shop is part of BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC. It is self-funded and returns the profits to the BBC to be reinvested in programmes and services to help keep the UK licence fee as low as possible.
In January 2011, former BBC presenter Miriam O’Reily won her case for age discrimination against the corporation after she was dropped from BBC1’s rural affairs show, Countryfile.
Argos is not the first place I think of when buying DVDs. However, The Guardian said that Argos wanted to become a “digital-led retailer”, one that might compete with Amazon. Its website is one of the most visited websites in the UK and offers consumers a wide range of products from electrical equipment to garden tools. Home Retail Group also owns Habitat and Homebase.
Dogwoof is the UK’s leading independent documentary distributor. It specialises in highly-regarded documentaries about social issues such as Black Gold, Food Inc, The Age of Stupid and Chasing Ice. The company works with non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace along with The Co-operative to bring films about current social issues to a wider audience.
In addition to selling its DVDs on its website, Dogwoof also allows people to become ambassadors for the company, giving individuals or groups a chance to show films in ‘pop up’ cinemas – one was recently held in a polytunnel in London. Anna Godas, CEO and Founder of Dogwoof, said that the scheme was born out of necessity due to the fact that many cinemas did not show their films despite demand from their customers.
There is also an option on Dogwoof’s website to become a member and be able to stream the back-catalogue of Dogwoof’s films.
Letterbox DVD is an independent company that specialises in art house, world cinema and classic films. It strives to provide an alternative to the mainstream.
The Wow HD website offers DVDs from around the world so consumers should take care to identify which region the DVD is registered to. Europe is region 2.
According to the Guardian, Rakuten, the Japanese company which owns Play.com, was selling whale muscle as a luxury dog treat through its website. A dramatic decline in consumption of all types of whale meat among diners, has seen whale meat increasingly appearing in pet food.
Channel 4 broadcasts the Grand National and has been criticised for an advert for it that Animal Aid called “cynical, callous and pretty disgusting”.
Disney is one of the companies whose clothes were found inside the Tazreen factory in Bangladesh where a fire killed 112 people. Disney did not attend a meeting in September to discuss compensation for the victims’ families.
1 Mintel Oxygen E-Commerce - UK July 2013
2 Mintel Oxygen Music and Video Purchasing - UK August 2013
3 The Guardian, ‘The Hut avoids VAT by shipping via US’, 16 November 2012 4 Experian, Argos must change demographics to challenge Amazon, October 2012
5 Guardian, Argos refocuses as ‘digital-led retailer’, 24 October 2012
6 The Telegraph, Dogwoof films: who needs cinemas anyway? August 2011 7 The Guardian, 6 April 2013 - ‘Grand National protestors accuse Channel 4 of exploiting deaths of horses’
8 Bangladesh workers must continue to wait for full compensation - 12/9/13, Industriall Global Union
9 ‘Countryfile’s Miriam O’Reilly wins BBC ageism claim’ - The Guardian, January 2011