Amazon to block Australians from shopping on its international sites

Australian shoppers will find themselves limited to a much smaller Amazon item selection beginning on July 1st. Instead of being able to visit and make purchases from international versions of Amazon’s web store — as most of us can do — they’ll be redirected to the local Australian site. Geoblocking isn’t the only strategy Amazon is taking; Amazon.com and the company’s other sites will no longer ship to Australian addresses as of the same date.

When I say “much smaller,” Amazon’s local Australia site still sells tens of millions of products, but it’s definitely a significantly lesser total than you’d find from Amazon’s US site. Reuters estimates that it offers one-tenth of Amazon.com’s selection. All the basics should be readily available, but this will be a real problem for certain item categories.

The move is the result of Amazon’s unwillingness to cooperate with Australia’s updated GST (goods and services tax), which would require the online retail giant to collect a 10 percent tax on all purchases that are shipped to Australia from overseas; previously the GST only applied to imported items over A$1,000.

“While we regret any inconvenience this may cause customers, we have had to assess the workability of the legislation as a global business with multiple international sites,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Sydney Morning Herald.

The legislation was lobbied for by local, smaller online and brick-and-mortar retailers like Harvey Norman. “They think they have the right to pay no tax in Australia,” the company’s executive chairman Gerry Harvey told the Herald. “They’ve done the dirty on the government. They’ve done the dirty on the public.”

Accusations that Amazon attempts to skirt around or mold tax laws to its liking are nothing new, but this is one instance where consumers are going to feel the brunt of the standoff. The Herald notes that some savvy shoppers are already looking into utilizing package redirection services so that they can continue getting their very particular items from Amazon — even if shipping will take a little longer.

Amazon reportedly “baulked at the massive administrative burden of tracking Australian GST from all overseas transactions,” according to Australia’s ABC News. eBay had also once warned that the revised GST legislation would similarly force it to block Australian shoppersfrom importing items, but it has since changed its tune. “We won’t block Aussie buyers, redirect them, or require them to pretend they are located overseas. Australians will continue to be able to buy from any eBay site,” a spokesperson said. “This requires major changes to eBay’s global systems and we are working to have these ready by July 1st.”