Monumental tax avoidance
We launched a boycott of Amazon in 2012 over its tax avoidance. This was called because in 2011, as the world's biggest online retailer, Amazon generated UK sales of £2.9bn yet paid only £1.8m in corporation tax. The correct figure should have been over £8 million at the full rate of corporation tax at that time.
Things have become much worse since then.
In 2021, fuelled by the pandemic, Amazon reported a near 200-percent rise in profits, yet taxes paid by the company barely increased on the previous years.
Research by Ethical Consumer has calculated that, in 2021, up to half a billion pounds (£500,000,000) could have been lost to the UK public purse from the corporation tax avoidance of Amazon. It is likely that the same amount would have been lost in 2022.
To make matters even worse, it was reported in June 2023 that Amazon received a tax credit of £7.7m. This means that in 2022, Amazon’s main UK division not only avoided paying taxes, it took from the pot that tax-payers filled.
Excessive director’s pay
Amazon also lost a mark for excessive director’s payment. According to its latest annual report, Amazon’s CEO Andy Jassy received over $12 million in 2022.
An average warehouse worker in the UK earns just under £13 an hour.
Amazon is renowned for its poor treatment of its workers.
On many occasions it has aggressively opposed unionisation and organising efforts at its warehouses. Trying to prevent collective bargaining within its workforce, the company has reportedly spent $14 million on anti-union consultants in 2022.
Amazon workers in Coventry, supported by labour union GMB, carried out strikes over pay in 2023 in both April and in July.
In October 2021, 1400 UK delivery drivers sued Amazon seeking employment rights, including minimum wage and holiday pay. In March 2023 Amazon tried to dismiss the lawsuit but a judge ruled that it could proceed.
Amazon suppliers don’t receive better treatment either from the company. This year, for the first time Amazon was listed in the UK’s Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) survey. The GCA is responsible for encouraging, monitoring and enforcing compliance with the Code and thus for regulating the relationships between the UK's largest grocery retailers and their direct suppliers. Perhaps unsurprisingly Amazon jumped straight to the last place of the list with almost four times as many accusations of code violations as the next company up.
Amazon sources conflict minerals and cotton without adequately stringent policies for protecting human rights, which is concerning because these products are at risk of being sourced from places where human rights abuses occur, including Turkmenistan (in the cotton sector) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (conflict minerals). Much more is needed than vague commitments to ensure the supply chain is free from violations.
Children’s privacy violations
In June 2023 Amazon agreed to pay $25 million in fines to settle alleged privacy violations. These involved its voice assistant Alexa and doorbell camera Ring. US’s Federal Trade Commission claims in one lawsuit that the tech company kept recordings of children's conversations with its voice assistant Alexa but failed to delete them – as it had promised it would – when parents asked it to do so.
Amazon agreed to pay another $5.8 million, because Ring had allowed employees and contractors to watch recordings of customers' private spaces, sometimes including bedrooms and bathrooms.