Government to teach retailers about online shopping

Online Retail Forum follows online GST debate

The Federal Government will attempt to drag Australian retailers into the 21st century, having announced an Online Retail Forum to help modernise the sector.

The forum, to be held in Sydney on 18 February, will include speakers from eBay, PayPal, Gray’s Online, Australia Post, Google and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Commenting on the need for such a forum, Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy said that providing an online information and sales channel was an important part of any discussion about the future of Australian retail.

“Buying and selling online can deliver benefits to Australian businesses in the form of greater efficiencies, broader customer base and increased revenues,” Conroy said in a statement.

“Shopping online can also deliver benefits to consumers in the form of greater customer satisfaction, better product information and, in some instances, lower prices.”

The forum follows hot on the heels of the recent failed campaign by big-name retailers such as Gerry Harvey to have the goods and services tax (GST) applied to online sales of less than $1000.

Despite Harvey decrying the lack of GST, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in January that Australians who hunted for bargains online should be allowed to continue doing so.

Gillard said she would also wait for the outcome of a Productivity Commission inquiry before formally responding to a push by big retailers to impose the GST on online purchases from overseas.

Rival retailers to Harvey Norman, Myers and Target have argued that large retailers have acted irresponsibly by trying to force the government to drop a GST exemption on international website sales of less than $1000.

Alliance spokesman, Brad Kitschke, said in January that the big end of town should instead engage with a Productivity Commission inquiry into the impact of globalisation on the local sector.

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @tlohman

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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