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Firstly, stupidest search result. Results for “mini washing machines”.

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Argos no longer sells these very useful, small washing machines that sell for a fraction of the price of standard models.

I am not going to waste any time wondering why they thought someone enquiring about mini washing machines would view pet carriers as a good substitute.

So, I resorted to the infamous Amazon, with this result.

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With typical Amazon efficiency, Amazon does indeed have the required item, no longer sold on the High Street. What is more, they have a larger choice of items than Argos stocked when they did stock this item, varying in size and price from a low £50 upwards to the correct – not hiked up price – of less than a hundred pounds.

I owned the above model when I shared a tiny flat in London with my late husband, a bed-sit converted into a “flat” by putting a wall down the middle. Laundry when you live in tiny accommodation becomes a problem. Standard machines take up too much space and are also pricey. Visiting laundrettes is also expensive over time and a bind. Perhaps why Londoner’s have been discovered to not wash their sheets very often.

The discovery of this little machine, which I bought in Argos, was a godsend. It paid for itself in a matter of months.

And this is part of the problem with Amazon. The absence of competition from the High Street.

When my late-husband and I were priced out of London in 2011, when our rent on miserable accommodation entirely wiped out one of our monthly incomes, I had to leave my washing machine with the new tenant. It wouldn’t fit in the car with everything else as we moved up North. I don’t need one now as our flats provide washing machines. But if I wanted to buy this machine again, Amazon is the only option.

Some people argue that “Amazon is sucking the life out of the High Street”. But my experience of the High Street over recent years has been either they don’t have what I am looking for, nor will they make any effort to get it. Customer Service seems to have bitten the dust as firms do absolutely everything to cut costs, largely because of the never-ending burdens placed on them by the government, not because of the existence of a competing alternative.

There are two sides to a monopoly. Perhaps Amazon are strangling the competition. But if the competition isn’t bothering to compete, Amazon will fill the gap. It provides what the customer wants.

The issue of fair competition enters here. It is not a level playing field. Amazon is a powerful trans-national. They enjoy advantages not available to ordinary firms. Trans-nationals get away with labour exploitation, including slave-labour in some cases, which give an unfair advantage, as well as tax avoidance. A formula of labour exploitation and tax avoidance will certainly boost your profits.

Regulation of business seems to be a task our governments have washed their hands of, with predictable results. It is not the job of democratically elected governments to be the hand maidens (perhaps a cruder expression applies) of international businesses.

The small local firms, are hard hit by taxes, rates and charges, and endless red-tape, which absorbs a greater proportion of their resources than  larger firms. On the whole they observe good employment practices and treat workers decently.

Our governments should drop their hypocrisy of upholding the “free market” which effectively allows trans-nationals to make and interpret the rules to suit themselves, while everyone else is bound by them, and level the playing field to reduce the burden on smaller, local businesses, and enable real competition.

And perhaps we need a new form of the “Monopolies Commission” to take a hard look at how huge trans-national firms  operate.

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