Amazon.com says it will stop blocking Australians from shopping on its much larger U.S. site after a customer backlash, dumping an unpopular policy the retail giant had said was necessary to comply with Australian tax law.
The abrupt reversal, less than five months after the policy was introduced, is a relief for shoppers and underscores how Amazon's much-feted launch in Australia has had a rocky start in a market where some predicted it would doom existing retailers.
"As a result of customer feedback, from 22 November Amazon customers will be able to ship eligible items from amazon.com to Australian delivery addresses," a company spokesman said in a statement.
The online giant had blocked shoppers in July from placing orders on its U.S. website after changes to changed GST rules kicked-in, ending the previous exemption from the tax for imported online goods worth less than $1000.
It has now, on the eve of its Black Friday sales, figured out a way - as rival eBay has already done - to levy the tax without blocking sales.
"It's a very quick backtrack on a decision that obviously hasn't benefited them," said Daniel Mueller, an analyst at Vertium Asset Management, adding that the Australian site had a smaller range and at times higher prices than the U.S. site.
"It's probably a reflection on the Amazon Australia website not being great," he said. "I think to bolster the Australian website they've had to do this."
Australia had been the first market where the world's second-most valuable company responded to a sales tax by shutting out customers based on where they lived.
Independent analysts said in July that the Australian website offered a range of products roughly one ninth the size of Amazon.com in the United States.