You might not think these two subjects are related, but let me assure you, my readers, indeed they are. Back in August, I had a letter published in Digital Camera Magazine. It moaned that the price of the new Canon 70D camera in $ worked out at the then exchange rate to £765.00, but Canon’s UK price was £1079.00. Canon’s Richard Wolfe’s reply was ‘Pricing……. Is based on a number of factors, including currency exchange rates, local import and sales taxes and other overheads such as shipping charges. We are committed to providing our customers with the latest imaging technology and aim, where possible, to make our pricing as consistent as possible across our different markets. I posted the reply on one of the Canon forums, where someone posted that due to the large volume of cameras shipped, the difference in shipping costs would work out at £1.00 per camera. I cannot comment on the accuracy of that forum statement, but have got to say I’m inclined to suggest it would be no more than £5.00-£10.00 per camera.

Rewind to March 16th, and the star letter that was published in that week’s Amateur Photographer magazine was from John Cooper of Pattinson Photography in Northumberland. He stated that ‘Canon et al…… Do not wish to trade with small independents, as witnessed by their trade terms. It is often cheaper to buy from a web based supplier than than direct or via a a major industry wholesaler for onward selling…….. For example, a Canon Powershot SX240 HS from Amazon is £154.95 including VAT, but from our supplier it is £188.71. For DSLR’s the difference is beyond belief. People come to look but then purchase off the web.’

I fully agree with John. Years ago in the late 70’s or early 80’s, Granada TV’s World In Action documentary broadcast an edition about electrical goods price maintenance in the U.K. (illegal since 1964). Its thrust at the time was about major manufacturers forcing independent retailers from undercutting the major high street chains, or they would no longer be supplied. Now let me make one thing 100% clear: I am NOT suggesting that this goes on today, or that any camera manufacturer engages in such practices.

However, it is obvious to me that something that isn't in the best interests of UK consumers is going on. On Saturday 19th Oct I helped out at a charity craft fair where traders bought stalls. One trader told me he had a hard time selling Christmas trees. They were the same trees a major high street retailer was selling for £45.00. His price was £15.00. I said ‘If you’re selling them for £15.00 you’ll be paying less than a tenner each.’ To which he agreed with me. I then said ‘And with xxxxxxxxx’s major buying power, they’ll probably be buying them for less than a fiver a tree.’ Again my new acquaintance agreed with me. The fear of being sued prevents me from naming the store in question. However, it is outrageous they can add 600% or more mark up for a product. My Stepson worked for the chain in question until last year, and concurs with me on this.

It seems to me that all the hard work Tony Blair’s Government did in reducing prices of electrical goods, is slowly being eroded away. UK consumers are being taken for mugs by the retailers. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, compared to our US cousins, UK shoppers are being taken for a ride. The only way we’ll change this is by refusing to buy from the UK high street. Choosing independent camera retailers will help, but going down that route is too expensive. The Coalition needs to act now, to stop this escalating further. I feel real sorrow For John Copper and his business. How long will it be before the independent camera retailers fall by the wayside. A local newsagent faced competition from an ‘Ethical’ retailer about 7 or 8 years ago. They had bought out a chain of local grocery stores and started selling newspapers at half price to try and force him out of business. He fought a campaign against this, and his customers remained loyal and the offer was dropped after 3 months. He said several newsagents had been forced to close due to this happening elsewhere. Granada’s World In Action also did a documentary about a major bus operator putting free buses on routes operated by small independent companies to drive them out of business back in the 1980's after the Thatcher administration deregulated that industry.Long live the independents, I say.

But we as UK consumers are too lax to complain. We are happy to keep paying over inflated prices, and until we all bite back and stop buying until something happens, nothing will be done about it. Luckily, my wife is a good friend of our local MP.  He has asked for the information I have on the matter.  I’ll keep you all updated.

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