News & Views
Everybody loves to hate Amazon

Amazon’s reputation has seen better days. The online retail giant has not quite yet reached the status of full blown pantomime villain; it is more like that cocky kid we all knew in school who would pull reckless stunts and talk back to teachers, and yet somehow always get away with it.

In addition to its on-going feud with Hachette over ebook pricing, which is short-changing authors and causing many once loyal customers to buy their books elsewhere, Amazon is struggling on a number of other fronts:

Appeasing peeved parents

Amazon has been hit with a lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission recently following widespread complaints from parents whose children were able to rack up a significant amount of fees through in-app purchases on their Kindle devices. The issue here is that the kids weren’t made aware when playing that their additional content cost real money, and no password or account verification was needed to complete the transactions.

“Companies need to get consumers’ consent before placing charges on their bills,” states FTC Consumer Protection Director Jessica Rich. “This principle applies to companies of all types, from brick-and-mortar businesses to mobile app stores. And it applies to charges of all kinds, from purchases of physical goods to charges for the virtual items at issue in today’s action.”

Turning ‘non’ into a ‘oui’

The French government’s minister for culture and communication, Aurélie Filippetti, believes that Amazon is destroying bookshops, and states that “everyone has had enough of Amazon which, through dumping practices, smashes prices to penetrate markets only to then raise prices again once they are in a situation of quasi-monopoly.”

France has put the kibosh on Amazon’s free delivery in a bid to encourage people to visit physical stores. Amazon cheekily responded by charging customers a delivery fee of just €0.01, the legal minimum amount, highlighting just how tricky it is for governments to regulate eCommerce.

Drones stay grounded for the time being

Amazon has submitted an official proposal to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requesting special permission to carry out drone test flights in US airspace. While hobbyists are allowed to fly drones, as long as they comply with a series of safety regulations, companies are forbidden, and carrying out deliveries via drone is currently illegal. However, Amazon’s Peter Misener believes that drones are the future. “One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation.”

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