Comedian David Mitchell accuses Amazon of 'rapacious near-monopoly' over the books market

Comic attacks internet giant's tax situation

Adam Sherwin
Tuesday 23 September 2014 17:24 BST

The comedian David Mitchell has attacked Amazon, accusing the online retailer of a “rapacious near-monopoly” over the books market and acting in a “cynical and frankly life-crushing way”.

Addressing the Booksellers Association conference, Mitchell hit out at the US company’s business model and its tax arrangements.

Speaking about the effect of the internet on modern life, the Peep Show star said: “What is cheating is Amazon’s business model. They already have an enormous technological edge but apparently that isn’t enough. They also have to have a rapacious near-monopoly.

“Amazon is a company that has profited massively from this natural disaster of technological change that has befallen us in the last decade and a half, but they make it much worse than it needs to be because of the monopolistic, cynical and frankly life-crushing way that they operate.”

Reading from his new book, Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse and Other Lessons from Modern Life, Mitchell said: “It has emerged that despite £4.2bn of UK sales, the company paid just £2.4m in corporation tax in 2012. In the same year it received £2.5m in Government grants, which makes it a benefits scrounger.

“Is there any point in my being angry about this? Everybody else already is.”

Amazon has said that it pays all applicable tax in every jurisdiction.

Mitchell’s criticisms echo a call from the Publishers Association for the Government to “initiate an inquiry into the digital book retail market to ensure it is working to the benefit of booksellers, publishers, authors and consumers”.

The comic acknowledged that his new book, a collection of his newspaper columns, is available to pre-order on Amazon for £18.99. “Yes. But I would be crazy not to. And I am a prostitute in that way,” he said.

Calling Amazon “the great job-killer”, Mitchell said: “For every job it creates, more than one is destroyed on the high street. It’s the great annihilator of work and yet it has been receiving job creation Government subsidy. I understand the changes in work and business patterns that have been caused by the internet are irreversible.

“Still, it is amazing that Amazon, in an act of dazzling contempt, has managed to persuaded the Treasury actually to pump water into the rising sea.”

However he insisted his new book wasn't “all about Amazon” and “it isn’t all that angry”.

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