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Friday, 1 June 2018

Cinephilia Under Threat - The Amazon empire strikes back

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
Here’s how it started. 

The Federal Government announced it would charge GST on all goods coming into Australia. The former exemptions on small purchases from the likes of Amazon and other online retailers would become a thing of the past.

With the date looming Amazon wrote to its customers to advise the following new conditions on their sales thus:

Dear….

As a result of changes to Australian GST law, on 1 July 2018 Amazon’s international shopping options for Australian customers will change. 

While we regret any inconvenience this may cause, from 1 July we will be redirecting Australian customers from our international Amazon sites to amazon.com.auwhere you can shop for products sold by Amazon US on the new Amazon Global Store, available today. We have taken this step to provide our customers with continued access to international selection and allow us to remain compliant with the law which requires us to collect and remit GST on products sold on Amazon sites that are shipped from overseas. 

Amazon Global Store will allow Australian customers to shop on amazon.com.aufor over four million items that were previously only accessible on amazon.com. This selection is in addition to the more than 60 million products that are already available on amazon.com.auacross 23 categories, including books, fashion, toys, and electronics. 

To welcome you to amazon.com.au, and thank you for choosing to shop with us, we are offering you a $20 voucher to redeem against your next purchase on amazon.com.auof items sold and shipped by Amazon AU. Just include your unique promotional code below at checkout when purchasing eligible items (see full terms and conditions below). 

Thank you for choosing to shop with Amazon.

But, those who have been Amazon customers then started to get very agitated. (Names not included)

I wonder how this Amazon decision will work out in the long run.  Their .au website does list some of the items we would want to buy from US and UK and at mostly reasonable prices but in reality will they be able to deliver them or will we find orders charged and then refunded as had happened sometimes before?  Clicking on some of the more obscure titles, the delivery options are still from those on-sellers in UK, US, Germany etc.  Will we be asked to pay another 10% when they arrived? Who's going to administer that?

Some of our friends have been working through other sources of supply in more recent times.  Criterion is cheaper through some of the other options and I wonder what will happen to Barnes and Noble etc.  Book Depository I guess will have the same philosophy as their colleague.

Nobody in the media has commented that many items we may want to acquire are simply not available in Australia.  Apart from video discs, a lot of books are kept by the remaining shops and in the area of classical CDs, the situation is dire.  Thomas' (in Melbourne) closed recently, just short of a century of supplying recorded music.  But even their specialisation didn't provide more than half the titles I would have on a short list of new releases. Readings' has a far from comprehensive range of discs of any kind. 

In the end will Amazon end up paying the taxes the government expects to collect?  When I mentioned the possibility of all this months ago to one of our overseas friends, he said it was about time this happened and recounted how one major coffee chain paid more in rent in the UK than the money collected at the till. That went to the main office offshore somewhere so that none of the outlets made a profit.

Some got more agitated than others, at least to this point….

Next election I will vote for any party that will do everything to scrap these shit GST laws which bar Australians from buying from Amazon. I don’t give a fuck if it is One Nation tbh, just end this garbage tinkering with GST.

Another serious collector noted:

 I wonder if your Film Alert contributors have any thoughts about the Amazon situation.  As you know, from July 1 Amazon’s overseas branches will not send goods to Australia but will re-direct Australian customers to their Australian branch.  The problem, of course, is that Amazon Australia won’t carry the sort of specialised material film collectors seek, like, for example, the Criterion films or Masters of Cinema from the UK.  Any thoughts as to how to cope with this situation would be most welcome.

…and a frequent user offered some thoughts on a few more technicalities

Will there be a new industry in “disc mules” bringing orders?
If someone placed an order for a couple of discs with one of Amazon’s onsellers, would they know about our GST?
Will there be a return of those shops selling US and UK discs at high markups like Warner Archive for sixty bucks each etc? 
Possibilities are endless.
One of the worst outcomes would be a failure of our infrastructure to cope with processing mail items containing three or four discs and applying GST for postal people to collect. 
And if we bring back discs from overseas, what is the GST free limit, if any, and will we have to declare discs, indeed any goods, which would attract GST?
I think US citizens returning home have a tiny sales tax free amount. 

The prospect of queuing at the Post Office to pay tax and collect small parcels is frightening. 

But finally you have to ask in the light of the new taxes and charges, the higher prices that will be gouged by local suppliers whose competition has been eliminated, and the non-availability of key titles, whether there will be ever greater resort to illegal downloading. 

If so I think that’s called shooting yourself in the foot…

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