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Amazon brings Uber-style delivery service to UK

22 July 2016 - 10:05 by Mike Price

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After initiating trials of a new approach to delivering items ordered via safe shopping online last year in the US, e-commerce firm Amazon is introducing its Uber-esque scheme to British customers this month, according to the Financial Times.

Rather than relying on the Royal Mail or dedicated courier services with their own vans and drivers, Amazon’s new approach is to allow anyone to sign up and become a part time delivery person, providing they own a car and are willing to work on a freelance basis.

In the short term the scheme will be rolled out in Birmingham and will primarily be intended to allow local customers of its Prime Now platform to get deliveries within an hour of placing an order via safe shopping online.

People who choose to become temporary delivery drivers for Amazon will get notifications about incoming orders from a smartphone app, while customers will be able to check up on the progress of their delivery in real time via a separate app.

The idea is to create a more flexible approach to delivery, rather than relying on the ultimately limited resources of any existing courier infrastructure. And as Prime Now grows, customer expectations will increase and having access to an army of part time drivers could be useful.

Workers’ rights campaigners are concerned about this approach, with criticisms levelled against Uber as a result of questions over the legal status of drivers who earn money using its taxi app.

Amazon claims that its British drivers could make up to £15 an hour if they sign up to its Flex freelance scheme. But since this is not a fixed amount, in reality any earnings could be significantly lower.

The flexibility argument, which suggests that people who cannot take on jobs with standard hours because of other life commitments, does support Amazon’s cause. But until the scheme is up and running, reaching any solid conclusion is difficult.