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Amazon and Trade Descriptions

I recently bought Beth Orton’s (alleged) CD, “Comfort of Strangers * Limited Edition” from Amazon. When it arrived, it turned out it didn’t work. Investigation reveals that this is because it isn’t actually a CD, just something that looks rather like one. EMI (for it is they) are attempting to copy protect music by making it not work in CD drives in computers.

If that’s what they want to do, then that’s their right, dumb as I think it is. However, what is not acceptable, in my view, is for vendors to attempt to sell these things to me described as “Audio CD”s. I have, therefore, initiated a return to Amazon on the grounds that the goods are defective. The text of my complaint is:

The product is not an Audio CD.

I have also, as advised by Trading Standards Central, reported Amazon to my local Trading Standards Authority (who actually delegate this to something called Consumer Direct). Here’s the text:

Amazon sell CDs manufactured by EMI described as “Audio CD”. However, EMI “CD”s do not conform to the standards for audio CDs (this is an attempt to prevent illegal copying) and so do not work, for example, in PCs.

It seems to me, therefore, that this is an offence under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968.

The reference number for this complaint is CDCO1081882, should anyone care.

Now to see what happens next.

14 Comments

  1. Yes, its apalling that they’re allowed to sell inferior quality products as if they weren’t inferior. I fully support the complaint.

    I have successfully taken back crippled CDs to HMV on the same basis, but I’m fascinated to know how your complaint under trade descriptions proceeds.

    Good Luck!

    Comment by Charlie Harvey — 10 Mar 2006 @ 17:08

  2. Just in case you’re not already aware of this… you may want to make sure that the “CD” didn’t install some software on your machine in the process.

    If you’ve not heard of this, search slashdot.org for Sony, CD, rootkit, etc. for more details.

    Comment by Charles Roth — 10 Mar 2006 @ 19:52

  3. I have autorun disabled for this very reason. Thanks for the advice.

    Comment by Ben — 10 Mar 2006 @ 19:53

  4. funny. i just returned from Barnes & Noble where I entertained the idea of buying this CD. Then I checked the price. $19.99! And I realized that it’s been years since I bought an actual CD. BTW, B&N’s evil little trick is to put the real price in little print while trumpeting the price that, on close inspection, is availble only for a fee to buyers club program members.

    Comment by greg — 10 Mar 2006 @ 20:06

  5. Huh, Amazon was pretty good about listing which Sony discs had copy protection. Amazon is usually very good about accepting returns.

    I noticed that Amazon pulled a critical review of the disc off their site (the other reviews reference it). Did you write one complaining about the copy protection?

    Comment by Matt Volk — 10 Mar 2006 @ 20:29

  6. This is kinda disappointing, because Amazon have historically been very good at labeling audio discs that weren’t CDs as “Content/Copy Protected Disc”.

    Comment by Tim Jarrett — 10 Mar 2006 @ 20:55

  7. The interesting bit to me was that Sony, or whoever it is that owns the trademark for ‘Compact Disc’, filed suit against several companies that did this kind of thing for almost exactly the same reason: the item in question isn’t really a CD, so they can’t label at as one.

    Comment by PJ — 10 Mar 2006 @ 21:07

  8. a) I didn’t post on Amazon’s site.

    b) The CD standards are owned by Philips.

    Comment by Ben — 10 Mar 2006 @ 21:27

  9. Robin cares. Amazon should too, as they are usually pretty straight up in my experience.

    I can put you in youch with JeffB if you like!

    Comment by robin — 10 Mar 2006 @ 23:22

  10. PS. that’ll teach you for being honest and buying the CD!!!

    Comment by robin — 10 Mar 2006 @ 23:23

  11. […] That seems all bit criminal, so Ben’s gone off to approprate authorities to bring this criminal activity to their attention. So far, the authorities are confused, but Ben’s helping them to see the light. […]

    Pingback by Ascription is an Anathema to any Enthusiasm » Blog Archive » State Power and Industrial Standards — 16 Mar 2006 @ 14:06

  12. I’ve recently had a similar experience with a Pink Floyd CD purchased through Amazon. As my only audio device is a Slimdevices Squeezebox attached to a PC, I’m unable to play it at all. I reviewed the item for Amazon and pointed out this problem but the review was never published.

    Comment by Steve Crook — 16 Mar 2006 @ 21:49

  13. i had the same problem with a norah jones cd, i wrote to the artist via the management company pointing out the same issues and to the record company and recieved a dissinterested standard letter telling me to go forth and multiply.. or something of that ilk

    i now dont buy CD,s

    this has cost the record industry at least £1000 per anum on my lost sales alone

    poor commercial sense IMHO

    Comment by bigusdave — 19 Apr 2006 @ 1:18

  14. This is because it is very rare that amazon publishes any reviews that bring down the Star ratings for the product as they will not sell many. Look at nearly any review on Amazon and the rating is AWAYS either 4 or 5 stars.

    If you want to write a critical review you must use a good rating of stars or it will not be published.

    Comment by David Smith — 3 May 2006 @ 18:21

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