Amazon to Block Australian Customers from Using Amazon.com, & They Could Lose Acess to Their eBooks

Amazon to Block Australian Customers from Using Amazon.com, & They Could Lose Acess to Their eBooks Amazon

In its infinite wisdom, Amazon has decided that its Australian customers will no longer be allowed to shop from its main site, and have their orders shipped from overseas. Instead, these unwanted customers will have to buy from Amazon's Australian site.

And that could be a huge issue for Australian Kindle users.

From Sydney Morning Herald:

Australians will be blocked from shopping on Amazon's international websites and restricted to using its smaller local platform as the e-commerce giant responds to the government's new GST rules on online purchases.

The move is seen as a win for local retailers which had lobbied for the 10 per cent tax to apply to all goods purchased from offshore retailers - not just on those greater than $1000.

...

Amazon said that Amazon.com, its American website, and other overseas sites would no longer ship to Australian addresses from July 1.

...

Shoppers visiting those sites will be redirected to Amazon.com.au, which launched late last year and stocks about 60 million products, compared to almost half a billion on its US site.

July 1 is the date new rules come into effect forcing online retailers to apply the 10 per cent GST to all online purchases being shipped to Australia from overseas.

This is going to be a minor annoyance for most of Amazon customers but possibly a huge problem for Kindle users.

You see, Amazon has set up its Kindle platform in such a way that you can only have a Kindle app or ereader attached to a specific account with one of its websites. If you have accounts through both Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.fr, you can only register an app or a Kindle through one account.

Normally that wouldn't be a problem, but with customers being forced to switch to Amazon's Australian site it means that they could lose access to their ebooks:

Note: I am using the indefinite phrasing in this post because I have not confirmed the accuracy of this initial report. Amazon was queried before this post was published, but has not responded.

Amazon has forced customers to switch Kindle Stores in the past, with different results.

Back in 2013, customers in Canada, Japan, and Brazil were all blocked from buying from Amazon.com. In at least some of the cases I found back then, users were able to transfer their accounts, but only at the cost of their purchase history, gift card credits, and wishlists. Users also lost books that were not available from Amazon in their respective national markets, as well as other content.

At the very least, Amazon's customers are facing a painful disruption, and for no good reason.

 

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

26 Comments

  1. Jimo31 May, 2018

    Calibre all your ebook purchases !

    Reply
    1. Fahirsch31 May, 2018

      Yes! First thing I do after downloading

      Reply
  2. Allen F31 May, 2018

    Most likely brought on by the Australian government to benefit Australian stores/book sellers …

    Reply
  3. Mike Hall31 May, 2018

    This sounds bad but I suspect that we may not be getting the full story yet. I’m going to comment from a UK perspective though a different set of rules may develop in Australia and it would be interesting to hear from Australians who are directly involved in the process.

    I have a single Amazon account and can log into any* Amazon store using the same email and password; the payment methods and addresses are then the same though each store has separate order history, wish lists and gift card balances and I can only see my kindle books on the UK store (well save for Harry Potter which also appears in the USA).

    I would be surprised if Australians cannot do the same and – just as I do – continue to buy (physical goods) from Amazon.com, though they will be restricted to shipping within the USA (or to the non-Australian parts of the world?). So is there any reason why this could not continue though they’d have to switch stores to check old orders and have the bother of migrating wish lists?

    As I am registered in the UK for Kindle book purchases I can only buy in the UK but the facility exists to switch the registration to the USA and Amazon’s help pages assure me that all my e-books (but not necessarily everything else) will then move to the USA. I hope that a similar switch facility will be made available to Australians so that all their e-books can be moved to amazon.au. There is no reason why the fact that the book is not available for sale in Australia should interfere with this (given that you can still download purchased books after they are removed from the Kindle store and that the book files are probably all held in the USA).

    We’ll see whether Amazon is really going to screw its Australian customers but there is always Apprentice Alf to fall back on.

    * any store that I’ve tried that is (I did not attempt China or Japan)

    Reply
    1. Miss M31 May, 2018

      That’s exactly how it’s always worked for me for ebook purchases. Although I gave it up several years ago, I used to ‘travel electronically’ from the US a fair bit and I still have the several hundred Amazon UK and Amazon DE Kindle purchases within my cloud library. (Now I do all my international purchasing via Kobo, much easier for my purposes.) Unless they’re doing something drastically different in Australia they shouldn’t be losing their ebooks. They do have my sympathy re the change to hard goods, though.

      Reply
  4. Cole Mak31 May, 2018

    Proving once again that you are not purchasing ebooks, you are leasing them.

    Reply
  5. Darryl31 May, 2018

    The fault lies with the Australian Government. Australia charges GST, goods and services tax, of 10%. Businesses are responsible for charging and collecting this tax. If goods are physically imported and it has not been paid, the consumer importing pays. Physically imported goods up to the value of $A1,000 have been excluded from this regime for practical purposes. To collect the tax on these smaller amounts is not only hugely inconvenient for consumers but is simply not worth the cost of doing so.

    The change in the law is due mainly to one of our larger retailers falling on difficult time, who lobbied extensively because they blame their falling fortunes on losing customers to online retailers because of the GST. I suspect the reality is that GST is not an issue when Australians choose to shop overseas. The costs of shipping alone would well exceed any GST in most cases. Remember, we are talking about goods valued under $A1,000.00. Also, the wait for something to be delivered is a huge disadvantage, and warrantly can also be a huge problem. Availability of goods, range, extremely inflated Australian pricing and other factors unconnected with GST are the problem, at least in my humble opinion. Much like publishing, this retailer and some others simply can’t compete.

    So far as I am aware Australians with an Amazon account in the US will still be able to access the website, and even buy goods if shipped to a US address. There are many forwarding companies operating, including Australia Post’s Shopmate. Presumably either the forwarding company makes arrangements to pay the GST, or the goods arrive in Australia with it unpaid. In the latter case, I suspect there will be delays in delivery and possibly a trip to the local post office involved.

    Any beneficial effect these regulations have will, once again IMHO, be due largely to inconvenience rather than cost.

    Reply
  6. Darryl31 May, 2018

    From Shopmate on Customs, Duties and Taxes link:

    From 1 July 2018, each time you check out a ShopMate parcel and declare the value of the goods, you will be asked to provide payment for your ShopMate shipping and the applicable GST all in the same transaction^.
    The rate of GST is 10%.

    GST will be payable on:
    The value of the item(s) you are shipping into Australia via ShopMate including any shipping fees or local taxes paid to the USA retailer, and
    The value of the ShopMate shipping and service fee (including Extra Cover if applicable)
    Within 48 hours of providing payment, for each ShopMate transaction you’ll need to email Australia Post a copy of the USA retailer invoice.
    The invoice must include the price of all goods which you are sending to Australia via ShopMate and the shipping fees of these products from the USA retailer to the ShopMate USA warehouse.

    Reply
    1. Miss M1 June, 2018

      In other words, ShopMate is putting into place a system for it and its customers to manage compliance with the new regulations, while one of the world’s largest, most sophisticated online retailers – Amazon – is throwing a hissy and offering Australian customers reduced consumer product availability instead.
      While at the same time arbitrarily incommoding their Kindle customers.

      Reply
  7. Portnawak1 June, 2018

    An Australian author just posted this yesterday:
    “I just tried to buy an e-book on amazon.com and got this message:
    We’re sorry, we could not complete your purchase.
    Your Kindle account is registered at Amazon.com.au. To shop for Kindle titles available for your country/region, please shop at Amazon.com.au.
    And yet I’ve NEVER registered with amazon.com.au nor have I ever bought anything from it. I’m FURIOUS!”
    I know there are ways to have a US shipping address through some societies who then send the items you bought to you, but for ebooks and audiobooks everything seems blocked.

    Reply
  8. Some of the comments are correct, but missing the point, ebooks are not physical goods.
    As a German (EU) Citizen I have bought physical goods, mostly Books, CD, Blu-ray, DVD from Amazon in Germany, France, Spain, UK, USA and Japan.
    A few items I cannot buy directly from Amazon.Com (fresh wares for obvious reasons), to mind come some toys (Dolls I tried to buy) and some kitchen utilities, using a shop that will ship them to Germany may be expensive or not possible through Amazon.Com.

    My German Account is different from the others, and I can buy ebooks at Amazon.Com (but not at the other shops).
    Some ebooks even then are blocked, and for most there is no point buying in the US as they are available at the German shop for the same price or even a few cents less (in Eur due to different exchange rates and tax).
    But there are still a few books not available in Germany which I have bought successfully in the US.

    My advice is: use one email/account for your local Amazon, and a different email/account for every other shop.

    Kobo is not always a solution, as they check through several ways where you are coming from, and while the Website has gotten better, I still do not like it, but that is just me.

    Barnes-and-Nobles has begun to check where you come from, but so far a simple VPN with an IP-Adress in the US will work, when they bother to check the credit-card (the first 4 numbers contain the bank which in my case is based in Germany), they lose me as a customer – or when they stop selling ebooks, whichever comes first …

    WHSMith and one other UK based shop had sold me a few ebooks, but declined a few years ago as they recognized the rules from the publisher and informed me that I could only buy physical books there, but they where graceful and let me keep the so far bought ebooks. Although I lost the chance to download them again, if I had not done that already.
    Thanks to Alf DeDRM I am prepared to losing access to shops, but still, this is the EU and at least in all shops there I should be able to buy ebooks legally (ok with BREXIT looming, UK is still not really EU for long …).

    Reply
  9. Robert Dybas1 June, 2018

    According to another source – This is due to the Austrailian requirement that non AU sellers will soon have to collect the AU VAT. The article speculated that Amazon wanted the shipper at port of entry to do the collecting.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder1 June, 2018

      the weird thing is, Amazon was already collecting Australian GST on ebook sales to Australians.

      So there was no reason for Amazon to not collect it on physical goods.

      Reply
  10. Allen F1 June, 2018

    @ Miss M

    I kinda doubt Amazon is throwing a hissy-fit but rather the local government is trying to ‘help’ the local booksellers. Amazon is in it for the money, but they have to play by the local rules/laws.

    (Which by the way is why Amazon is pissing off so many companies all over the world, they are selling and delivering what the customers want better than the others while under the same laws/rules those other companies are stuck with. Trump hates Jeff and Amazon, but he can’t use the DoJ because no laws are being broken, and any new law that ‘might’ hurt Amazon will hurt other companies as well.)

    Reply
    1. Miss M1 June, 2018

      The new law has nothing in particular to do with booksellers, but rather the entire gamut of imported consumer products. Of course Amazon has to comply but instead of instituting a process to collect the GST for items ordered from the US, they’ve chosen to instead cut off access for Australian customers. [There will now be a ‘global’ store with a much reduced inventory, according to news reports.]
      As others have pointed out, Amazon has figured out for years how to charge, collect, and forward to the proper authorities the differing country-specific VAT rates and varying US state and local taxes, all across numerous international borders, but they’re choosing not to for Australia.

      Reply
  11. Miss M1 June, 2018

    The new law has nothing in particular to do with booksellers, but rather the entire gamut of imported consumer products. Of course Amazon has to comply but instead of instituting a process to collect the GST for items ordered from the US, they’ve chosen to instead cut off access for Australian customers. [There will now be a ‘global’ store with a much reduced inventory, according to news reports.]
    As others have pointed out, Amazon has figured out for years how to charge, collect, and forward to the proper authorities the differing country-specific VAT rates and varying US state and local taxes, all across numerous international borders, but they’re choosing not to for Australia.

    Reply
  12. Darryl2 June, 2018

    Not so far as I’m aware, Nate. Amazon Australia is registered and collects GST on sales on the Australian site. But GST is not charged on ebooks bought from the US or other sites, though Amazon does seem to divert customers to the national site where they are registered.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder2 June, 2018

      Here’s the official statement from an Amazon rep.

      “Both the sale of Kindle Devices and Content are unaffected by this law change. GST is already charged by Amazon AU on its sales of Kindle Devices to Australian customers on amazon.com.au. GST is also charged on the sale of Kindle Content to Australian consumers on amazon.com.au and amazon.com under the imported services and digital products legislation applicable from 1 July 2017.”

      Reply
      1. Darryl2 June, 2018

        Thanks for that, Nate. Is there actually a link to that statement. I suspect that the statement about kindle content from amazon.com rather than au is incorrect. I have never seen GST charged by the Amazon US site and a search of the public register shows it is not registered for GST here, though someone apparently unrelated has registered the business names “AMAZON.COM” and “AMAZON RETAIL”. If amazon.com is in fact set up to pay GST then it does of course somewhat diminish its arguments. I would, however, be very surprised if this is in fact the case.

        Reply
        1. Brad2 June, 2018

          Just now (June 3rd) purchased an ebook on Amazon.com using my Aust billing address:

          Invoice now appears as…

          Item(s) Subtotal: $1.02
          —-
          Total Before Tax: $1.02
          Tax Collected: $0.10
          —-
          Total for this Order: $1.12

          Perhaps they were collecting GST before, but now they made it explicit.

          Reply
          1. Darryl3 June, 2018

            Interesting. I’ve never been charged GST by Amazon US and I can only find an ABN registration for Amazon Australia. Strange.

            Reply
  13. Darryl2 June, 2018

    Amazon does now collect state taxes for sales on the .com site. As I understand it they do not collect foreign taxes except on the particular site in the foreign jurisdiction. Australia’s ridiculous change in law could easily require all Amazon companies running sites worldwide to register for Australian GST. Australia already collects GST at the border for sales over $A1,000. They have now abandoned this threshold and now want GST from dollar one. They are basically trying to make foreign retailers collect the tax for them and pay it quarterly. Imagine the work involved if this virus spread beyond Australia. The Amazon company running the US would be required to register, collect and administer taxes from just about every country in the world. And bear all of the admin costs. As would its other sites. There are perfectly good mechanisms to collect this tax at the border if Australia insists on it for these small amounts. Remember, the exemption for goods under $A1,000 was because it was uneconomic to collect. It still is. Though perhaps if enough costs can be foisted upon foreign retailers, the Australian Government may not lose quite as much in administration costs.

    Reply
  14. Darryl2 June, 2018

    I should add that I suspect Amazon has taken a long term view in setting up an International site. I suspect it is expecting other countries will follow Australia, and wants to quarantine the effect if they do to the International site. When a new country wishes it to collect taxes at its own cost it will have to make changes to only one site, the International one, rather than potentially every site.

    Reply
  15. […] from shopping on Amazon.com after July 1, 2018 because of 10% GST. This will impact Kindle users [The Digital Reader]. Make sure you have licensed your books for Australia if you want readers to be able to find […]

    Reply
  16. Lyn4 June, 2018

    What happens to the US$130.00 credit on my gift card with amazon.com? Will it be refunded? I use this only to purchase kindle books.

    Reply
  17. acflory5 June, 2018

    As an Aussie with an Amazon.com account, I’ve been worrying about this as well. It is possible to download all your books to the pc and then side-load them to the Kindle, but a) it’s tedious in the extreme, and b) it may not work unless you turn wi-fi /off/. The Kindle’s wi-fi connection allows Amazon to track things like page reads [for KU] and also to block books if/when necessary – e.g. you buy an ebook via credit card and there’s not enough funds on the card.

    So…if Amazon.com.au doesn’t have one of the ebooks you bought on Amazon US, will it be yanked off your Kindle?

    Plus there’s the issue of Australian Indie authors. At present, my Amazon Author page is with Amazon US. Will I be allowed to keep that Author page, and if so, how will I log into it?

    Not happy, Jan. 🙁

    Reply

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