Comixology US Shuts The Door On UK Buyers

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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, 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 instead of 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:


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

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