ACCC probing online shopping ‘discrimination’

The ACCC says it’s looking into reports that some fashion importers are asking retail websites to charge Aussies more or block them from buying certain brands.


Australians are increasingly making their fashion purchases in virtual stores rather than in physical ones.

Some fashion importers say Australia’s appetite for online deals is destroying their livelihood, but the issue is so sensitive for them that they refused to be named.

In order to survive, a handful have made agreements with designer labels either not to sell their products to Australians online, or to charge them more for the same items than customers from elsewhere.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says it’s looking into recently-reached deals to establish whether they constitute anti-competitive behaviour.

Chairman Rod Sims urged any online shopper who suspected they were being charged more for an item because of their location to contact the ACCC.

He added that shoppers should always look around before making their purchases.

Whether or not more companies follow suit and strike price deals will depend on shoppers’ reactions, according to Choice spokesperson Ingrid Just.

Consumers were tech-savvy and would find ways around importers’ attempts to charge them more – either by choosing a different brand, or by using third-party shipping websites, she said.

SBS contacted the International Fashion Group – which is reported to have made a deal with some US denim designers – but has not yet received a reply.

The Australian Retailers Association says this country is one of the most expensive in the world to run a bricks-and-mortar store.

“The ARA has recently put submissions forward which call for changes to contemporary wage and penalty rate structures to ensure they’re able to employ people to keep stores open and meet the demands of the modern consumer and remain globally competitive,” Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said in a statement.

It was also calling for the Low Value Imports Threshold to be slashed to zero in order to “level the playing field” for retailers competing with overseas businesses, he added.

Some business owners told SBS they wouldn’t survive if they sold their wares at online prices

They wouldn’t be able to afford the rent, or pay their staff Australia’s relatively high minimum wage, they said.

They added that consumers just didn’t want to know their side of the story.

According to PayPal, 45 per cent of Australians start off by searching for products on local sites, but 30 per cent end up buying from overseas.

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