The National Retail Association (NRA) says some of the assertions of consumer group Choice on the GST-free imports issue bordered on misleading or deceptive conduct.
On its website, Choice claims the cost of a $20 item would rise to more than $35 – an increase of more than 75 percent – as a result of the application of a 10 percent GST.
NRA chief executive Trevor Evans said the unfair tax loophole currently in place for overseas retailers gave a price advantage of up to 25 percent – when import duties and customs charges were also taken into account.
‘For Choice to misrepresent this as a 75 percent increase in the cost of goods is little short of deceptive and misleading conduct – the kind of behaviour for which they would normally “name and shame” businesses,” Mr Evans said.
‘It’s important that Australians have a mature and well-informed debate on this subject. For that to take place, organisations such as Choice must tell the truth and must not abuse their own “market power” in the media marketplace.’
Mr Evans said many of the arguments advanced by Choice were based on nothing more than rhetoric, whereas the NRA has engaged respected economic analysts Ernst & Young to undertake genuine independent research.
‘This research has demonstrated that more than $1 billion will be lost to the public purse next year alone as a result of this unfair loophole, and up to 33,400 local jobs are at risk in the long term.
‘Rather than attempting to spread suspicion and mistrust of Australian businesses in support of its scare campaign, Choice should adopt the same standards of truth and fair dealing that it demands of business owners.
‘This is not about preventing fair access to internet purchases. Indeed, the NRA has many members with extensive on-line product offerings. This is about ensuring that foreign retailers who wish to access the Australian market can do so on the same basis as local retailers. It’s about a fair go for everyone.
‘This change would mean more jobs in Australia, more tax revenue to pay for the services needed in this country, and a more viable local retail industry.
‘Along with the greater consumer safeguards that come from buying through a local retailer – including warranties, product safety laws, easier exchanges and the coverage of Australian consumer law – it would seem a logical “choice” for a consumer organisation to support a fair and level playing field for Aussie businesses.’
The NRA has also urged consumers to shop locally in the final weeks before Christmas to ensure they are safeguarded by buyer protection, avoid disappointment during the final postal rush and most importantly, to support Australian jobs and businesses.
Mr Evans added that it didn’t matter if it was clicks or bricks, as long as shoppers were buying from local retailers this Christmas.
‘Christmas spending sprees usually give retailers the boost they need to survive into the next year as the silly season can provide up to one-third of their yearly profits,’ He said.
‘As long as you’re buying from a retailer in Australia you’ll be helping protect local jobs and giving our businesses much-needed support.
‘With less than 14 days until Christmas, it’s unlikely any further offshore purchases will arrive in time, instead consumers need to shop locally to avoid any disappointment.
‘Buying locally also ensures shoppers are entitled to buyer protection, which they don’t get with overseas purchases.’
Mr Evans said shoppers who made any Christmas purchases from Australian retailers were protected by their right to a refund or replacement if the item they purchased was faulty.
‘If you buy locally you can have peace of mind you’re entitled to a refund or replacement if something goes wrong, whereas with overseas purchases you could be left present-less on Christmas Day,’ he said.
‘Not all overseas purchases carry the same assurance given by Australian retailers and consumers won’t necessarily have access to the same remedies if they buy something from offshore. It’s not worth the risk this close to Christmas.’