A question from the audience…

“How do you answer those who say that by raising this issue, you’re making people aware of this potential loophole and therefore it is more likely that people will purchase Amazon and other gift cards with public money?”

If we follow that line of thought, those who discover flaws in an operating system and make the company and public aware of it are at fault, not those who didn’t spot and plug the hole beforehand.

These cards haven’t even landed on hall mats yet, and won’t do until Monday 4th October at the earliest, so there is ample time to implement a fix to prevent this scheme failing to deliver for local retail. It can be fixed at card issuer level by Mastercard at the behest of the department, or alternatively, the relatively small number of retailers who are licensed to sell these cards by Amazon including Asda, Tesco Co-op and others can come out and announce that their Point of Sale systems will reject the purchase of any online gift card transactions during the life of the High Street Voucher scheme. I understand from conversations with others that such a restriction is already in place to stop Milk Tokens being used to buy alcohol.

The potential ‘gaming’ of the High Street Voucher Scheme has been talked about at all points from conception to implementation, apart from it seems the corridors of power at Stormont and the offices of the membership organisations who claim to represent small local businesses. Let’s not forget, this isn’t the first time Stormont has failed small locally owned businesses here, like when non essential retail couldn’t offer Click and Collect, but goods bought on Amazon and Ebay could be collected in Argos stores, Post Offices and ‘essential’ retail.

What I’m talking about here is the potential gaming of a scheme that had the hands of two separate DUP ministers at the Department of the Economy on it, as well as a raft of civil servants, highly paid SPADS and consultants. If the best the great and the good can do to protect the livelihoods of local retailers and their employees is to adopt a ‘Keep Shtum and Don’t Mention Amazon’ approach, an assembly election can’t come soon enough. Small businesses need to organise at a local level to have their voices heard in a meaningful way, including potentially running independent candidates in May 22 to ensure local business has an effective voice on the doorstep and in the Assembly.

In part because of Amazon, small independent retail is dying in Northern Ireland and it it is now time to start looking at what if any business relationship Stormont has with Amazon in procurement and services. Ourselves and others will be submitting Freedom of Information requests to see what each department and MLA has bought from Amazon with public monies and follow that up with a campaign to ensure that more public money is spent locally.

September 29, 2021 — Mr Books
Tags: Amazon

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