Ask LH: Do Online Stores Have To Quote GST?

Dear Lifehacker, I was recently purchasing something at an Australian online store and noticed the prices listed next to the items did not include the GST. They added the amount of GST at the end when you were paying for it. Do websites based in Australia have to have advertise prices with the GST included, or can they be sneaky and add all the fees at the end? Thanks, Taxing Times

Shopping picture from Shutterstock

Dear TT,

The law in Australia is clear in this respect: prices should always be quoted including GST. As the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission explains:

When you present prices to your customers, you must state the total price of the good or service as a single figure, which is the minimum total cost that is able to be calculated. This should include any tax, duty, fee, levy or other additional charges (e.g. GST or airport tax). If you promote a price that is only part of the total price, the total price must also be displayed at least as prominently as the part price.

If a site is being sneaky and quoting a GST-exclusive price, it may be trying to attract overseas buyers (who won’t have to pay GST) or business customers (who do have to pay the GST but can offset those costs against their own GST charges). However, that doesn’t make the approach legal.

A better approach for site operators — both legally and in terms of customer satisfaction — is to quote the full price and then subtract GST at the checkout if the customer is in a location where GST would not apply. This is the model used by Amazon UK (for VAT, the British equivalent to our GST).

Note that these rules don’t just apply to GST. One prominent example: airlines have to quote an accurate minimum price on their sites. They can add in extras such as baggage fees or seat selection charges or credit card fees, but they can’t exclude compulsory fees (such as airport taxes) from the initial price quote.


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