In an opinion piece published on France Info last week, 120 politicians and trade union leaders called for “stopping Amazon’s expansion”. In an interview with EURACTIV France, parliament member Dominique Potier discussed the need to rethink society’s approach to consumption.
Dominique Potier (PS), a Socialist MP for Meurthe-et-Moselle, is one of the authors of the opinion piece.
Contrary to the highly publicised #NoelsansAmazon petition (#ChristmaswithoutAmazon petition), the Op-Ed you signed does not only call for excluding the Californian giant from the festive season, but also for an ‘in-depth rethinking of our modes of consumption’. Why such a radical tone?
The situation is urgent. Amazon’s business model poses serious problems on several levels. First of all in terms of distorting competition: it is one of the GAFAMs [Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft] that is barely – taxed. Moreover, Amazon can crush its prices with its global clout, creating power relations that are unsustainable for any other seller.
Its environmental impact is often pointed out, and rightly so. Even if we don’t always have detailed references on the subject, with a little common sense we can imagine that this system of delivery around the world is ultimately more energy-consuming and more resource-destructive than traditional trade.
Amazon does not contribute to the common good through taxes. It destroys values of the real economy and the environment… all this by eliminating jobs in local shops. The op-ed discusses precisely this issue. As for the jobs created, the salary conditions are highly questionable.
My aim here is not to make a case for the demonisation of Amazon. Above all, it is an opportunity to recall that its business model is not imperative. Another way of thinking about trade exists: in the distribution of value, in the common effort, in the saving of resources, and in the maintenance of a social life that generates employment.
To reopen local shops, the government has proposed to postpone ‘Black Friday’, something that the major distributors, including Amazon, have already agreed to. What do you think of this postponement?
I would prefer to postpone Black Friday ad vitam aeternam. To me, this commercial frenzy seems very worrying, in a world that should be thinking about its relationship with time, consumption, and others with greater wisdom.
These systems of aggressive and permanent sales end up making us forget all sense of value. Untimely sales disenfranchise the producer from the thought and work behind their products.
In the long run, the risk is that everyone, producers, and consumers alike, will forget that things have value.
So lowering prices would make us less conscientious?
That’s for sure. E-commerce giants impact producers but also ultimately consumers. It is human dignity that is at stake here: both as a producer, who sees the value of their goods reduced to almost nothing, and as a consumer, who is always forced to consume more. Accumulating goods is so easy that it becomes commonplace.
As a society, this voluntary servitude should challenge us, so that we can free ourselves from it and find meaning in our ways of producing and consuming. The postponement of Black Friday is certainly a lesser evil, but still a misunderstanding. The solution would be a system of regulated sales adapted to storage seasons.
What is terrifying about Amazon is that it is timeless and, in that sense, profoundly destructive. When ordering something on Amazon, there are no Sundays or holidays… I dream of a world where e-commerce could be regulated and culturally adapted to the rhythm of our societies.
The Op-Ed also calls for the establishment of “an exceptional tax on Amazon’s turnover”.
Indeed, two solutions are being considered:
First, for the short term. This exceptional crisis has allowed Amazon to reap staggering profits. In the same way, an “exceptional taxation” must be put in place. The amount of such a tax would ensure the survival of the entire sector. It is a matter of social justice.
The second would have a long-term impact. Both Amazon and all the GAFAMs are structurally under-taxed. A rebalancing is needed, particularly with regard to e-commerce warehouses, which unlike physical trade, are not taxed.