Community Featured

California Sues Amazon for Antitrust Violations

Amazon has been accused of antitrust violations due to their wholesale policies 

The office of the California attorney general, Rob Bonta, stated in the Amazon antitrust lawsuit how the company employed contract provisions to prevent sellers from offering lower prices for products on non-Amazon sites. This extended even to the sellers’ own websites, preventing other retailers from competing.

Amazon removed the ‘buy now’ or ‘add to cart’ buttons on product listing pages, displayed items lower or less prominently, and blocked new postings.  Due to Amazon’s near-Monopoly in the online retailer space, sellers would have to sell their products at higher prices on other sites or lose risking their business on Amazon.

The average Amazon seller would technically be better on Amazon’s good side than on their bad one, and many sellers complained about these practices throughout the years. Some users, mostly online sellers directly affected by the situation, have expressed satisfaction upon seeing the measures taken against Amazon.

As explained by Bonta in a statement, Amazon practically coerces merchants into agreements that keep prices artificially high, knowing that they can’t afford to say no to them. 

The complaint mentions that Amazon coerces wholesalers into agreements that penalize them if Amazon lowers its prices to match competitors, or if their profit margin falls below a stated minimum.

Amazon Parcels
@ Amazon

Despite Amazon’s claims that sellers set their own prices on the platform, they have also stated how they have the right to avoid highlighting products that aren’t priced competitively. 

The main purpose of the lawsuit seeks to stop Amazon from getting into contracts with sellers that would harm price competition, and also seeks a court order to motivate Amazon to reimburse damages to the state for their increased prices, with no further information on how much money they are seeking.

A similar lawsuit was filed by Washington, D.C. against Amazon in May 2021. They won dismissal of it the lawsuit earlier this year, but California’s lawsuit is based on different laws. They can’t agree to offer lower prices on Walmart, Target, eBay, or even their own websites. 

There are over 200 million users are Prime members, and Amazon is currently the world’s largest online retailer and grew even bigger during the pandemic.

California’s lawsuit wants to ban Amazon from entering into anticompetitive practices contracts that hurt competitor prices.

In a statement for CNN, the California Attorney General has it backward, and sellers set their own prices for the products they offer in-store. The relief the Attorney General seeks would force Amazon to set higher prices for customers, going against the core objectives of antitrust law.

Featured TV and Film

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Review

The two-episode premiere of The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power has been uploaded to Prime Video. 

The first episode features deliciously gorgeous landscapes that accurately represent the lands of elves and dwarves, humans, ents, wizards and all manners of fantastical creatures created by J.R.R Tolkien in his Legendarium. Reviewers have outright called it “TV made for big screens.” The show was created by Patrick McKay and John D. Payne, covering the world’s Second Age.

It’s essentially a prequel to the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series, following characters such as Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), Elrond (Robert Aramayo) and Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker). Critics have compared The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power to its most obvious competitor: HBO Max’s House of the Dragon. Both are TV adaptations of best-selling high fantasy novel series with previous live-action incarnations.

The series is estimated to run for at least five seasons. Reviewers consider that the show makes bold promises through its world-building. The rings do not make an outstanding appearance so early in the show, though there’s more than enough hinting through Galadriel, Elrond, and others of what’s to come in the next episodes.

House of the Dragon had theirs in Game of Thrones, while Lord of the Rings had its own in the Peter Jackson films. They are both prequels.

Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power
Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power © Amazon Prime

The work put into House of the Dragon’s cinematic has been superb, though it cannot compare to the Rings of Power. Not even in the budget department, as this is supposedly the most expensive TV show ever made, with a reported astronomical budget of $465 million for eight episodes.

Many fans tuned in precisely because the Second Age of Middle-earth had never been depicted in movies, though book fans have expressed their displeasure at the liberties the showrunners took. 

The preview trailers tainted further interest for some due to the names given to many new characters.

They were considered inconsistent, a glaring criticism due to how detailed Tolkien’s work on names, languages, and his motivation in designing the legendarium. The first trailer of the show has 1.5 million downvotes against 100k upvotes. 

As with many IP works taken to streaming, viewers already have high expectations before they even press play, and LoTR fans happen to have high standards with how Tolkien’s work is portrayed.

Mysterious figures, survival situations, and political intrigue have earned this prequel worldwide attention. And, of course, the money put into the CGI, the costumes, and the art direction.

Featured LGBTQ TV and Film

WLW: Why is Woman-Loving-Woman Television Being Cancelled?

From The Wilds to First Kill, WLW stories are being cancelled left, right and centre

As we enter the last months of the year, it appears that relatively popular TV series’ featuring WLW characters and partnerships have not escaped the curse of cancellation, despite their popularity throughout the year. The most prominent of these shows are the likes of The Wilds and, new show, First Kill. Unfortunately, often, there is little to no explanation by their respective companies and streaming services as to why the cancellation has occurred. And, what is the most upsetting about this notion, is that each show was popular in its own right, with statistics to prove it. What we can therefore assume has occurred is that these series have fallen victim to society’s implicit, and yet constant, disinterest in WLW, both in the media and in day-to-day life.

The disinterest in WLW individuals and relationships undoubtedly feeds from the misogyny that is still present in contemporary society, which manifests itself in the favouring and popularity of MLM (Man-Loving-Man) – centric media. Consequently, popular shows amongst the WLW sub-category of the LGBTQIA+ community are left floundering and underrepresented. But, the mere cancellation of TV shows is only a small part of a much larger issue.

WLW show the wilds
The Wilds © Amazon Prime Video

The cancellation of Amazon Prime’s popular survival show, The Wilds, caused perhaps the most uproar out of the above-mentioned recent cancellations. The show, which focused on a group of girls surviving on an island after an aeroplane crash, featured a WLW couple, Toni and Shelby. Both were beautiful and already underrepresented character arcs, with Toni representing someone who was already comfortable in their sexuality without the usual ‘tragic coming out story’ attached to her. Her other half, Shelby, was a devout Christian who struggled with her sexuality for much of her life, before her attraction to Toni cemented that her sexuality was not, in fact, heterosexual. 

LGBTQIA+ fans of the show took to Twitter immediately upon news of the cancellation, which occurred despite a successful and critically acclaimed second season that was released in May 2022. Instantly, it was obvious that much of the upset was directed at Toni and Shelby’s relationship no longer being promised to return to their screens. 

One fan tweeted: “I REFUSE TO LOSE THEM, BRING THEM BACK TO ME.” Whilst another fan highlighted the importance of the couple and what it meant for WLW representation, “Toni and Shelby had one of the most beautiful lesbian relationships I’ve seen on a show.” And, “We had an out and proud lesbian and a closeted lesbian and we got to see both of their stories merge and come together in a glorious way, but we need to see their ending.”

Erana James, the actress who played Toni, shared her thoughts on the cancellation and the importance of representation of WLW characters, stating: “It’s not a story of someone coming out or coming to terms with their identity, but more that she fiercely knows who she is and she’s proud of that. She knows herself. And she’s not going to apologise for it.”  

And thus, we all bear witness to yet another loss of media representation for those who identify with WLW. For The Wilds, both seasons were acclaimed by critics, but Amazon still pulled the plug. 

WLW show First Kill
First Kill © Netflix

Another show that’s cancellation is perhaps more surprising, was the decision to cancel Netflix’s new show First Kill less than two months after it initially premiered in June 2022. First Kill was a supernatural, coming-of-age series with a lesbian couple as its protagonists. And, whilst not being a critical hit, First Kill was in Netflix’s global Top 10 TV list for three weeks, racking up 97.66 million hours watched in that time alone. Statistics don’t lie, so it is no surprise when the show’s cancellation led to the hashtag #CancelNetflix trending on Twitter. 

What appeared to be the most upsetting notion for fans of the show, was when they compared the viewing statistic of First Kill with Netflix’s popular and recently released MLM series, Heartstopper. Heartstopper was almost instantaneously renewed for a further two seasons following its initial release, despite only amassing 53.46 million hours watched whilst it was on the global Top 10 TV list – almost half of First Kill. Fans explained their annoyance, tweeting things such as “we’re not comparing First Kill with Heartstopper, we’re comparing how Netflix treats MLM-centric shows to how they treat their WLW shows.” Which, of course, is poorly in comparison and rooted in misogyny. 

The community can therefore only hope that such constant cancellations of WLW series will cause enough uproar to end the misogynistic practice. But, when such a practice is so constant, it is incredibly hard to hold out hope. 


Featured TV and Film

Lord of the Rings: What We Know So Far

All you need to know about the mega Lord of the Rings series set to occupy our Autumn!

Lord of the rings is one of the most successful books and film franchises of all time. Next in line is its TV debut on streaming giant, Amazon Prime. The official name of the series is Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power. It will be loosely based on the fantasy works by J.R.R Tolkien, a British author who released the series of books, starting in 1954. Since then, it has sold millions of copies and has been cemented as one of the greatest pieces of fantasy fiction ever created. Its timeless quality means that there is plenty of appetite for more content and producers have seized the opportunity to bring the story to the small screen. And, what they have created looks anything but small. Here’s what we know so far about 2022’s most anticipated release.

Simon Tolkien Helped Shape the Series

Simon Tolkien, the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien, has been heavily involved in the development of the series! That’s right, producers have managed to pick the brains of a living descendant of the great author, as Simon served as a consultant. However, Simon is more than just a grandson, he is in fact an accomplished novelist in his own right: meaning that his input in the show will be creatively valuable, as well as being good marketing.

Lord of The Rings series
Middle Earth (We Got This Covered)

The showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay recalled the first time they met Simon, “we had to pinch ourselves — here we were, sitting across the table from the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien himself,” McKay recalls, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “And that was only the beginning of what has proven to be an extremely enriching and rewarding dialogue. His insights, attention to detail, and passion for both the characters and the overall architecture of The Rings of Power are woven throughout the pages of our story. Working with Simon has been the experience of a lifetime.” Usually, remakes and spin-offs get shut down by family members of authors who hold the stories dear to their hearts. The fact that Simon is involved in the process highlights that the series will have a huge level of detail, and will respect the roots of the iconic franchise.

The plot will focus heavily on the rings

Lord of the Rings series cast
The cast (Cosplay Central)

The premise of the series begins at a time of peace in Middle Earth. But, rest assured, the series will also cover “all major events of Middle Earth’s Second Age: the forging of the Rings of Power, the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, the fall of the island kingdom of Númenor, and the last alliance between Elves and Men.” Also, the title The Rings of Power clearly indicates that the rings will be a major thread of continuity throughout the series. “This is a title that we imagine could live on the spine of a book next to J.R.R. Tolkien’s other classics,” said the showrunners to Variety. “Until now, audiences have only seen on-screen the story of the One Ring –but before there was one, there were many… and we’re excited to share the epic story of them all.”

It has big-budget cinematic episodes

Some official stills (Slash Film)

One of the first headlines about the series touched upon the colossal budget, which will exceed 1 billion dollars. This makes the Rings of Power, the most expensive TV series of all time. It is also reported that the first season alone will cost a gobsmacking $462 million. In recent years, Amazon Prime – the producers of the series – has been in open competition with rivals Netflix, Now TV, and many more up-and-coming platforms. The huge financial reserves behind Amazon meant that they won the bidding, back in 2017, paying $250 million for the television rights alone. With a budget of this size, it is pretty much guaranteed that each episode will be at least an hour long and will feature cinematic-style episodes. It is safe to say that the series will be a collection of mini-movies, combined to create an unforgettable experience for fans.

It’s premiering soon

Since the trailer dropped on February 14th, fans have been patiently waiting for the release date. It is now confirmed that the series will arrive on Amazon Prime on Friday 2nd September. Reports indicate that Amazon is looking to stretch out the story for five seasons, although only two seasons have been confirmed so far.

Featured Sustainability

Amazon Delivers on-foot and Cargo Bikes in London to Cut Carbon Emissions

E-commerce giant Amazon has big plans for sustainability in 2022

Amazon has announced a plan to install 30,000 modular solar panels at its Coalville, Manchester, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Haydock locations, providing enough energy for 3,500 UK homes every year. The company has also launched a fleet of cargo e-bikes and on-foot delivery staff to replace the van journeys on London’s roads. This is the first time Amazon does this in the UK for deliveries.

The Hackney fleet has been labelled as a micro-mobility hub, a place to house the bikers, walkers and its previous electric vehicles for deliveries. The hub is expected to deliver around one million parcels a year, serving as a replacement for the vans on the road. However, the e-cargo bikes won’t be operated directly by Amazon, they’ll be operated by many of their business partners.

John Boumphrey, UK Country Manager at Amazon, stated that the company is hurtling towards a global net-zero carbon future. Its starting steps are through the transformation of its transportation networks. Part of this strategy has been motivated by the UK government incentives and infrastructures done to help companies reduce their carbon footprints.

Amazon E-Cargo Bikes
Amazon E-Cargo Bikes © Amazon UK

The transportation industry generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions as per the EPA. That’s because these gas emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels to power transportation vehicles. An e-commerce giant like Amazon has a huge responsibility for transportation emissions given the sheer amount of items they ship on a single day.

It’s estimated that under the new protocol, Amazon will ship 1.6 million packages every day, working out to 66 thousand orders per hour. It’s safe to say that these numbers represent a lot of packaging and a lot of transportation vehicles for them.

In the past, Amazon has been accused of greenwashing. That’s when a company pretends to be socially responsible and environmentally conscious as a marketing tactic, but they aren’t doing anything about helping planet Earth. And, while Amazon’s micro-mobility hubs might seem like another greenwashing strategy, the company seems more committed to reaching the worldwide carbon neutrality level than ever.

In addition, Amazon has pledged to deliver half of the shipments with net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 and a complete conversion by 2040. There’s also a high chance that they might implement more micro-mobility hubs in other first-world countries in the immediate future, which will help them make more zero-emission customer deliveries across London and the UK in the incoming months.

Community Featured

Amazon to Ban Words Like ‘Union’ and ‘Restroom’ on New Chat App 

The Pilot Programme is Set to Launch This Month

Amazon reportedly has plans to release an internal messaging app for its workers that would automatically flag employee posts and block a variety of keywords and terms surrounding working conditions, employee grievances and unions. According to company documents seen by The Intercept, words such as ‘union,’ ‘pay rise,’ ‘slave labour,’ ‘living wage,’ ‘diversity,’ ‘injustice’ and even ‘restrooms’ would be flagged by the app.

Set to be released as a pilot program at the end of April, the app was first discussed by high-level Amazon executives in November 2021 as part of a wider plan to “reduce employee attrition by fostering happiness and productivity among workers,” said David Clarke, Amazon’s Head of Worldwide Consumer Business. The app, which would operate as an employee-only social media platform, would allow users to post ‘Shout-Outs’ to celebrate fellow employees’ performance. Employees would also receive stars and badges for good performance. 

Amazon associates have come forward to say that it’s not yet been decided if all the listed words would be blocked by the app, but that the app’s auto-flagging mechanism would be implemented to prevent users from sending inappropriate messages, to “fight the bad side of social media” and ensure the platform provided a positive experience for its users. 

“If it does launch at some point down the road, there are no plans for many of the words called out to be screened. The only kinds of words that may be screened are ones that are offensive or harassing, which is intended to protect our team,” said Amazon spokesperson, Barbara M. Agrait. 

Amazon Press ImageAmazon has come under serious fire for its alleged poor treatment of employees. Some have even speculated that the banning of the word ‘restroom’ is due to reports of Amazon employees being unable to use the bathroom and instead urinating in plastic bottles to meet tough daily quotas. 

The company has also been notoriously anti-union, aggressively fighting the formation of employee unions in both the United States and abroad. On April 1st, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, made history by winning the battle to form the first Amazon union in the United States. 

This was a major win for workers and a huge defeat for the technology giant. Union organisers have reported that fellow employees at over 50 different Amazon warehouse locations have approached them for advice regarding the formation of their own unions. 

Amazon fought hard to stop the formation of the union, launching a multimillion-dollar campaign to halt employees’ efforts. The e-commerce conglomerate is currently seeking to overturn the win and redo the election, citing that organisers acted in a way which tainted election results. Currently, no Amazon warehouses in the United Kingdom have unionised. However, no laws are preventing them from doing so. 

If the release of the new app goes ahead with such vigorous censorship as has been reported, likely, Amazon will further escalate employee attrition and the very issues they are attempting to eradicate.