Etsy, eBay and Alibaba eschew Amazon-style geoblock

eCommerce companies work to update systems ahead of 1 July changes to GST collection

Etsy, eBay and Alibaba remain critical of the government’s model for GST collection on low-value imported goods but have indicated that at this stage they don’t intend to follow in Amazon’s footsteps and implement a geoblocking system.

The scrapping of the GST exemption on imports that cost less than $1000 takes effect on 1 July. The legislation ending the exemption makes the operator of an “electronic distribution platform”, such as an online marketplace that lists goods and services from third parties, responsible for collecting and remitting GST.

Amazon revealed yesterday that it would redirect Australian browsers away from its amazon.com site in response to the GST changes.

Amazon.com.au will allow Australians to shop for some products currently sold by Amazon US on a new ‘Global Store’ section, which will offer some 4 million items. Amazon.com.au currently lists around 60 million products.

The move “will allow us to provide our customers with continued access to international selection and remain compliant with the law which requires us to collect and remit GST on products sold on Amazon sites that are shipped from overseas,” a spokesperson for the retailer said yesterday.

A spokesperson for Etsy told Computerworld that the company is “focused on complying with the new GST collection requirements without compromising the experience our users have buying and selling on our global marketplace”.

“We, along with nearly 3000 Australian Etsy sellers, shared our concerns about this method of GST collection through public hearings and submissions last year,” the spokesperson said. “However, we're working to update our systems to enable the collection and remittance of GST for sales into Australia from non-Australian sellers from 1 July 2018.”

Alibaba Group, which was also critical of the GST collection model, said that the “implementation of this tax is difficult and requires many changes to Alibaba’s systems.”

“At this stage our priority is to ensure that we prepare the business for the change on 1 July 2018 and that the consumer experience on our platforms is not adversely impacted by these changes,” an Alibaba spokesperson said.

eBay, too, indicated that it would work to implement the new model rather than blocking Australian access to its international sites.

A spokesperson said it was “working on a solution that enables Aussie buyers to continue to shop from all eBay sites, while also capturing the required GST.”

“This requires major changes to eBay’s global systems and we are working to have these ready by 1st July,” the spokesperson said.

“eBay’s GST solution will allow us to collect GST in any currency, from any seller, from any eBay site. It also allows imports to Australia to continue without any structural barriers, redirects or blocks to the buyer experience.”

Amazon, eBay, Alibaba Group and Etsy have previously advocated for model of GST collection where the tax is collected by logistics companies.

“All parcels arrive at a small number of Customs points, via a small number of international logistics companies, one of which is government-owned,” Jooman Park, senior vice-president for eBay Asia Pacific, wrote in a submission to a Senate inquiry.

“These companies can require buyers to declare whether a good is new and to nominate a value of the good as part of the pricing of parcel delivery to Australia.”

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