Comixology US Shuts The Door On UK Buyers

Comixology US Shuts The Door On UK Buyers

The arbitrary, invisible wall of the marketplace strikes again.

UPDATE: Comixology has released a statement to clear things up. Here it is in its entirety:

For a short period this morning on our new .eu and .uk websites we had a pricing error on our books and were not displaying the correct prices in EURO and GBP. That problem has been corrected and customers that purchased from us at the wrong prices are being refunded. Going forward, as many people have observed, the correct price of a book on our .eu or .uk website, when converted to dollars, will have a higher price than the price of the same book on our .com website. The reason for that is that when you buy on our .com website you pay no value added taxes (VATs). In contrast, in compliance with the laws that govern our .eu and .uk websites, we must include VATs in the price. This reflects differences in the tax regimes that govern the regions we do business in.

Original article continues below:

One of the most frustrating things about era in which we live is the way most of the businesses that sell popular entertainment have managed to impose the pretense that the Internet doesn't exist on consumers.

Consider the absurdity of stuff like UK-created Television shows with massive popularity that are still released months after their debut overseas. Consider how annoying (and stupid) it is that if a US citizen tries to go to, say, Amazon.co.uk to buy MP3s by an artist who doesn't have a US record deal, they're informed they aren't legally allowed to purchase the record, despite existing exchange rates and the fact that these albums are available, you know, online. Granted, there are complex contractual reasons for such schemes, but by and large they're agreements between private entities, not the result of compliance-with-the-law issues. (The exception would be where tax laws apply, though this generally - though not universally - governs price for users in a region, not source and availability of an item.)

Until today, digital comics distributor Comixology was a rare breath of fresh air in an otherwise insipidly limited online marketplace. A comics buyer in the UK could, if they wished, visit Comixology.com instead of Comixology.co.uk to find comics that might not yet be digitally distributed across the pond, or simply shop around for the best prices, and easily make their purchase using Paypal. That changed this morning, when without warning, the following message appeared to visitors:

image

Now users will either need a US credit card to buy US products, or they'll just have to wait until said products are available in the UK. Making it worse, the site briefly screwed UK members via the same pricing trick used by the video game industry - take the price in US Dollars and replace the dollar sign with a pound sterling sign. A comic book that cost $3.99 in the US would now cost 3.99 in the UK. The problem of course is that this is a dramatic increase in the exchange rate between our two currencies. The UK price of an American digital comic under the actual exchange rate would be closer to 2.50, depending on the current value of each currency (which fluctuates).

Fortunately, at least in this one instance, Comixology quickly caught wind of the fact that their users were enormously unhappy to find that not only were they locked out of the US Marketplace, they were also getting the shaft pricewise, and as of right now the UK price for American digital comics has been reduced to 2.49. Even so, British comic buyers are now largely locked out of purchasing whatever they like, using (I might add) legal tender, unless the comic in question has been expressly made available for the UK internet.

So why the change? We don't know of course, but I didn't mention Amazon by accident. The online marketplace recently announced plans to purchase Comixology by the end of this year. If I were a betting man, I'd say this is step one of Comixology's eventual integration into Amazon.

It's not the end of the world, but it is a troubling sign. I wouldn't be shocked if the plan is, eventually, to sell comics at a 1:1 exchange rate but the change was implemented too early. It's skeevy, but it's also standard operating procedure for a host of businesses. We'll find out soon enough if, post-Amazon purchase, the prices go back up.

Source: Bleeding Cool

Permalink

"by paying in British Pound Sterling, you avoid currency charges."

...for them? Pretty sure I wasn't paying currency charges before...

"unless the comic in question has been expressly made available for the UK internet"
Shocking, as you've pointed out there is only one, global Internet...
Really sucky move there :(

If that move is Amazon buyout inspired they are pretty stupid; this will cost them a LOT of business and generate bad press, making themselves worth loads less when Amazon comes knocking. But perhaps Amazon already agreed to pay top dollar and they are just generating that bad press NOW... Sneaky bastards!

So, presumably there's about to be a big old spike in digital comic piracy or the use of VPNs to get stuff.

It never ceases to impress me the lengths that digital distributors go to to make life inconvenient for their customers. It's one thing to blithely turn around and tell customers that your internet based product isn't available to them, but what are they going to do when said customers simply source the product illegally instead?

THIS is why piracy keeps on existing.

How can someone BUY what they want, when companies keep screwing them?

I have money.
They have product.
Anything that interferes in that exchange is bad for both the consumers and the seller.

Well fuck those jerks then!

Tanis:
THIS is why piracy keeps on existing.

No, it's not, it's just one of the biggest examples of why there is a demand for it.

Look, I'm the biggest piracy apologist there is: let's legalize all filesharing, trim copyright law, and in the meantime, treat broken laws like feeble suggestions, the whole shebang. But let's not pretend that if the files were purchaseable everywhere, piracy would drop to 0 units.

People pirate because they want to read stuff that they couldn't afford, they pirate because they want to read stuff that they are only mildly curious about but wouldn't conceivably risk money on anyways, they pirate because they got used to it in their childhood, they pirate because they are inherently freeloaders, they pirate because they ideologically oppose copyright monopolies, etc, etc.

sell comics at a 1:1 exchange rate

This is why i don't buy many comics and collectables. $=/= in terms of spending power. Everything you will buy from MTG cards upwards are being gouged for in your territory. If i do buy i tend to import second hand. I've even made money this way. You can't do it with new sealed products (because of import taxes) but open product tends to be okay (although they sometimes add VAT even though they aren't supposed to). This is how i managed to get what sells for 120 in the UK for 80 including shipping (and not being subject to import charges, that is important)

The UK buyer will almost always get shafted. I always find i ludicrous that digital products are subject to the same measures. It's simple greed.

Alterego-X:

Tanis:
THIS is why piracy keeps on existing.

No, it's not, it's just one of the biggest examples of why there is a demand for it.

Look, I'm the biggest piracy apologist there is: let's legalize all filesharing, trim copyright law, and in the meantime, treat broken laws like feeble suggestions, the whole shebang. But let's not pretend that if the files were purchaseable everywhere, piracy would drop to 0 units.

People pirate because they want to read stuff that they couldn't afford, they pirate because they want to read stuff that they are only mildly curious about but wouldn't conceivably risk money on anyways, they pirate because they got used to it in their childhood, they pirate because they are inherently freeloaders, they pirate because they ideologically oppose copyright monopolies, etc, etc.

I'd argue there will always be a small fraction of people who would rather steal than pay for anything. However, the vast majority of people just want what they want when they want it. For example, I know a bunch of people who wouldn't normally pirate anything who give in to temptation because they have to wait 5 months to see Downton Abbey. ITV's insistance on this unnecessary delay is creating a market for people to steal who would otherwise happily pay for access via Amazon or what have you. (Or watch it on PBS.)

We'll never get rid of piracy any more than we'll get rid of, say, measles. But policies people pursue can encourage problems, or mitigate them. Just like mass vaccination essentially reduces diseases like measles to negligible, so too would simply making content available conveniently and when it's in demand protect entertainment companies against the piracy virus. And just like antivaxxers have managed to help create new outbreaks of measles (the dicks), the insistence on pretending the Internet doesn't exist has helped create new markets for piracy. Also, apologies for the hackneyed metaphor.

Of course, I'm cynical enough that I consider the whole piracy freak out to be an after-the-fact justification for policies such companies already want to pursue, like forcing DRM schemes on people, and creating a captive market. But that's just me.

Scrumpmonkey:

sell comics at a 1:1 exchange rate

This is why i don't buy many comics and collectables. $=/= in terms of spending power. Everything you will buy from MTG cards upwards are being gouged for in your territory. If i do buy i tend to import second hand. I've even made money this way. You can't do it with new sealed products (because of import taxes) but open product tends to be okay (although they sometimes add VAT even though they aren't supposed to). This is how i managed to get what sells for 120 in the UK for 80 including shipping (and not being subject to import charges, that is important)

The UK buyer will almost always get shafted. I always find i ludicrous that digital products are subject to the same measures. It's simple greed.

If you buy digital in the UK regardless of source you have to pay UK VAT of 20%. If you want a free at the point of use health service you have to pay for it somehow. If you want to pay American prices then move there and prey you don't get a serious illness.

albino boo:

Scrumpmonkey:

sell comics at a 1:1 exchange rate

This is why i don't buy many comics and collectables. $=/= in terms of spending power. Everything you will buy from MTG cards upwards are being gouged for in your territory. If i do buy i tend to import second hand. I've even made money this way. You can't do it with new sealed products (because of import taxes) but open product tends to be okay (although they sometimes add VAT even though they aren't supposed to). This is how i managed to get what sells for 120 in the UK for 80 including shipping (and not being subject to import charges, that is important)

The UK buyer will almost always get shafted. I always find i ludicrous that digital products are subject to the same measures. It's simple greed.

If you buy digital in the UK regardless of source you have to pay UK VAT of 20%. If you want a free at the point of use health service you have to pay for it somehow. If you want to pay American prices then move there and prey you don't get a serious illness.

-_- More half-baked 'merca lectures about UK taxation and sales...

Lets leave aside many of the local complex sales taxes imposed in the USA, because there is tax paid on many items. VAT is only 20% of the cost of the item. For a $20 item the 1:1 pricing ratio would be 20, that's $33.65. Now if we assume that the price in the USA does not include any sort of tax and we adjust for VAT we increase the $20 by %20. That's $24 or 14.26. That is a difference of 9.39 for the same product from the same serves even after local taxation is taken into account. It is simple price gouging.

Also the healthcare in the UK is (theoretically) paid for using National Insurance contributions made by you and your employer. We all have National Insurance numbers and those who can't provide should be charged for care and under new plans will be.

Ha, let Amazon drag them down. If this is a sign of their future then it's just another reason to abandon Comixology in my opinion. Also I don't remember ever paying 'currency charges' on digital comics there before so that little excuse could be pure PR BS.

Yeah, I have to buy stuff on the .eu site now.
They've done slight price adjustments but it's gonna be more expensive for me now overall.
Probably not as bad as the UK though.
It's one of an extremely few places where I can buy comics too.
I don't read a huge amount of comics but it kind of sucks nonetheless.

Scrumpmonkey:

albino boo:

Scrumpmonkey:

This is why i don't buy many comics and collectables. $=/= in terms of spending power. Everything you will buy from MTG cards upwards are being gouged for in your territory. If i do buy i tend to import second hand. I've even made money this way. You can't do it with new sealed products (because of import taxes) but open product tends to be okay (although they sometimes add VAT even though they aren't supposed to). This is how i managed to get what sells for 120 in the UK for 80 including shipping (and not being subject to import charges, that is important)

The UK buyer will almost always get shafted. I always find i ludicrous that digital products are subject to the same measures. It's simple greed.

If you buy digital in the UK regardless of source you have to pay UK VAT of 20%. If you want a free at the point of use health service you have to pay for it somehow. If you want to pay American prices then move there and prey you don't get a serious illness.

-_- More half-baked 'merca lectures about UK taxation and sales...

Lets leave aside many of the local complex sales taxes imposed in the USA, because there is tax paid on many items. VAT is only 20% of the cost of the item. For a $20 item the 1:1 pricing ratio would be 20, that's $33.65. Now if we assume that the price in the USA does not include any sort of tax and we adjust for VAT we increase the $20 by %20. That's $24 or 14.26. That is a difference of 9.39 for the same product from the same serves even after local taxation is taken into account. It is simple price gouging.

Also the healthcare in the UK is (theoretically) paid for using National Insurance contributions made by you and your employer. We all have National Insurance numbers and those who can't provide should be charged for care and under new plans will be.

If your turnover more than 40k a year you have to register for UK VAT. You either have to file online yourself or hire a UK based account to do so on your behalf. This represents an additional cost. Furthermore banks and credit card companies charge to change currency at an advantageous rate to themselves. Again this is an additional cost. VAT is either paid on yearly or quarterly basis in arrears. This means between the moment when the transaction was done and the moment when VAT is paid there is risk of large variations in exchange rate and second lot of costs associated with changing currencies. So its not just VAT but there are complications and costs involved in doing business even online outside your home country.

The change to the UK VAT rules blocks a loophole that was costing the UK exchequer 1.6 billion a year, or roughly 1% of the NHS budget. There are no hypothecated taxes in the UK, all taxation goes in the general budget and always has done. National insurance no more pays for the NHS and pensions anymore than vehicle duty pays for roads. The UK government spends a higher percentage of GDP than the US and consequently has a higher tax burden. The big difference between the two is the NHS which costs 8.2% of GDP a year. If you want the benefit of the NHS you have to pay for it. I am sick and tired of people refusing to accept that is no such thing as a free lunch. If you want higher public spending than you have to pay higher taxes or go bankrupt.

albino boo:

I don't understand why you are going on an Economic rant :s GoG manages to keep it's charging in dollars for UK buyers because its ethos is that there should be a single price and they still survive. Many companies use a 1:1 price model and saying it is somehow wholly justified is being needlessly argumentative.

The amount they gain from 1:1 pricing would far out-strip the actual costs involved with trading in a foreign market. Even then if they are struggling with these costs wouldn't a UK or regional surcharge make more sense to cover costs? The UK customer still gets charged over the odds when compared to their US counterpart. Saying "Hurr hurr move to the US then" is completely missing the point.

Scrumpmonkey:

albino boo:

I don't understand why you are going on an Economic rant :s GoG manages to keep it's charging in dollars for UK buyers because its ethos is that there should be a single price and they still survive. Many companies use a 1:1 price model and saying it is somehow wholly justified is being needlessly argumentative.

The amount they gain from 1:1 pricing would far out-strip the actual costs involved with trading in a foreign market. Even then if they are struggling with these costs wouldn't a UK or regional surcharge make more sense to cover costs? The UK customer still gets charged over the odds when compared to their US counterpart. Saying "Hurr hurr move to the US then" is completely missing the point.

GoG is based in the EU and therefore makes money by charging the vat inclusive price to non vat eligible customers.

"Why won't the UK take to our fabulous media and ideals!?"

...You'll find this one of the main culprits.

People thinking over charging for ignorance in the short term is the way to make something stick in a foreign market.

I don't know what Satanic shit head keeps suggesting this to be a good idea, but it really needs to stop.
ESPECIALLY on digital goods. That's just scumbag 101.

Being an expat living abroad from the US I can say first hand that this completely has an impact. I can't really see any reason to condemn Piracy in these cases because if someone is getting screwed can you blame someone for wanting to be the screwer rather then the other way around. I hate running into this. Take for example Gundam seed (not a most common example but certainly a clear one) Priced at 30 dollars for 26 episodes of the 52 episode series on Amazon US. in Japan this box costs 120 dollars give or take, and is pretty hard to find. usually it is sold at 30 dollars for 4 episodes a piece.

I don't buy Anime that much, but the principle is the same for television box sets as well. A box of House costs 30 bucks in the US next to the 120 it costs in Japan (at least in this case you get subtitles but still).

RossaLincoln:
Even so, British comic buyers are now largely locked out of purchasing whatever they like, using (I might add) legal tender, unless the comic in question has been expressly made available for the UK internet.

You do know that British currency is not legal tender in the US, right? ... Inflammatory bias or ignorance?

Anyway, between the issues with exchange rates, international taxation, and the UK trying to control the internet this doesn't surprise me one bit.

All I can say is: try to see this from the AU point of view, we get screwed by ALL countries and geo-locked content

Well, that's one company that's going to find itself severely dissappointed in the future. Heh, no pattern recognition, at all.

Tanis:
THIS is why piracy keeps on existing.

How can someone BUY what they want, when companies keep screwing them?

I have money.
They have product.
Anything that interferes in that exchange is bad for both the consumers and the seller.

Totally agree with you there. Take "Cards Against Humanity". I tried to import it from the US. I tried to get a friend to buy and send it over. In the end, I printed it out.

But the MOMENT it was released in the UK, I grabbed it. And all three expansions. Because I finally could.

RossaLincoln:

Alterego-X:

Tanis:
THIS is why piracy keeps on existing.

No, it's not, it's just one of the biggest examples of why there is a demand for it.

Look, I'm the biggest piracy apologist there is: let's legalize all filesharing, trim copyright law, and in the meantime, treat broken laws like feeble suggestions, the whole shebang. But let's not pretend that if the files were purchaseable everywhere, piracy would drop to 0 units.

I'd argue there will always be a small fraction of people who would rather steal than pay for anything. However, the vast majority of people just want what they want when they want it. For example, I know a bunch of people who wouldn't normally pirate anything who give in to temptation because they have to wait 5 months to see Downton Abbey. ITV's insistance on this unnecessary delay is creating a market for people to steal who would otherwise happily pay for access via Amazon or what have you. (Or watch it on PBS.)

This is true. I watched How I Met Your Mother online. I watched Big Bang Theory online. I watch Archer online, and same with Bob's Burgers. Same with Adventure Time.

I watch them online because I simply cannot watch them anywhere else. I pick up the DVDs as soon as I can when they release nearly a year later, but I watch them online when they come out because it is frustrating to be constantly told to wait when they have to translate it from English to English!

I recently watched Sherlock Holmes on DVD. It had 25 minutes of unskippable cutscenes. Me and my girlfriend had already finished our food by the time the film started. You know where I don't have to watch 25 minutes of adverts on a DVD I have already purchased? The internet.

We'll never get rid of piracy any more than we'll get rid of, say, measles. But policies people pursue can encourage problems, or mitigate them. Just like mass vaccination essentially reduces diseases like measles to negligible, so too would simply making content available conveniently and when it's in demand protect entertainment companies against the piracy virus. And just like antivaxxers have managed to help create new outbreaks of measles (the dicks), the insistence on pretending the Internet doesn't exist has helped create new markets for piracy. Also, apologies for the hackneyed metaphor.

But there is this habit that media companies have when they seem to punish those who purchase it. Take my DVD example above. Why am I being lectured on buying DVDs? I bought your DVD. I'm not the people you should be targeting. Same with video games. It's not the pirated copy which forced SimCity to be online when my internet is terrible, so I was simply unable to buy it because it would not literally work.

For the sake of the mods, I clarify, no, I haven't downloaded it either, I just bought SimCity 4. Which brings me onto the next point; I bought SimCity 4. Because I could. Because it was there and didn't punish me so I bought it and they got 5 they would never have seen. Everyone involved was happy.

Same with music. Ever since iTunes came into power, I haven't pirated a single music track. I haven't used Limewire at all. And I don't need to. Offering me cheap access to the music I like? Convenient? Then I buy it. I must have spent about 150 on music last year, because I could. Because they don't punish me for wanting to buy it.

Why don't media companies realize the world has shrunk with the mass adoption of the internet? It may be contract disputes with local distributors and international copyright laws. But they need to fix that bureaucratic pile of red tape that's screwing over the honest public. Maybe Amazon will dig Comixology out of the the hole they trapped themselves in and set a precedent for better service.

It's a service issue why piracy is so big. Most people would pay a reasonable price for content they want. This is why Game of Thrones was rated the number one tv show pirated online recently. HBO wouldn't provide paid online streaming to people who's local cable/satellite companies didn't have HBO. Anime studios and their localization partners host new subbed episodes straight from Japan, and it's quite a successful practice. I'm willing to bet music piracy dropped as more decent download services opened up with DRM free mp3s. The music and movie industries won't admit it because they think it's a disease and they the perfect brilliant medical researchers destined to cure it, when they just incredibly greedy.

Sarge034:

RossaLincoln:
Even so, British comic buyers are now largely locked out of purchasing whatever they like, using (I might add) legal tender, unless the comic in question has been expressly made available for the UK internet.

You do know that British currency is not legal tender in the US, right? ... Inflammatory bias or ignorance?

Anyway, between the issues with exchange rates, international taxation, and the UK trying to control the internet this doesn't surprise me one bit.

Sorry, I was imprecise. I meant to say that it is not illegal to convert pounds to dollars in a transaction online. Credit card companies do this routinely. Obviously I recognize that gbp isnt accepted in a brick and mortar store. But your british credit card sure as hell would be. Again, sorry for needlessly confusing my own point.

RossaLincoln:
Sorry, I was imprecise. I meant to say that it is not illegal to convert pounds to dollars in a transaction online. Credit card companies do this routinely. Obviously I recognize that gbp isnt accepted in a brick and mortar store. But your british credit card sure as hell would be. Again, sorry for needlessly confusing my own point.

Now that is sorted you do know that the reason the vast majority of stores in the US, or based in the US for online companies, only accept US currency is because the company is the one being charged the exchange fee and taking the hit if the exchange rate is not in the USD's favor. Add in international taxation, domestic taxation, international censorship requirements, and localization efforts I can see why a company would set up a domestic branch in the country they would be serving. Is it odd that both stores don't have the same content? Yes and no. Some content could be regionally locked due to publisher (or other) contractual agreements, some content might break regional censorship laws, who knows? But going into this story simply with a "row row, fight the power" attitude and not finding out why things are the way they are is very telling and does nothing but kick the hornets nest for the sake of kicking it.

 

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