Amazon's decision to block access to amazon.com because of changes in GST rules for overseas purchases has produced a bunch of angry reactions. Some are unhappy at the government for kowtowing to the whims of a vocal minority of local retailers, while others are angry at Amazon for letting consumers down. But, if the internet has taught us anything, it's that geoblocks are made to be broken.
The new rules imposed by Amazon as a result of the that changes to how GST is collected on overseas purchases don't come into effect until 1 July 2018. So, the redirect from amazon.com to amazon.com.au isn't active yet.
But when it's in play, there are some things you can do to get around it.
Buying physical products should be reasonably easy although the extra effort and potential expense may make the process so onerous that it's not worth doing.
Unless Amazon gets really fancy, bypassing the redirect from amazon.com to amazon.com.au should be pretty easy. A VPN app will do the job nicely. These ones that let you access the US version of Netflix will definitely fit the bill
Then, it's a question of shipping. Amazon has said they will be blocking freight to Australian addresses. That means either getting a friend to order and on-ship to you or using a freight-forwarding service. There are lots to choose from and their pricing structures vary significantly. A few that have been recommended by Lifehacker readers are
These service offer different options and pricing structures depending on what you're buying and the value of the goods. So, it's important to factor in those costs when you make a decision on whether to buy locally or use an overseas store.
Then there's payment. It's not clear yet whether Amazon will also be blocking Australian-issued credit cards but if you use a freight-forwarding service then that won't be an issue. But, if you plan to make purchases using your own credit card, a US issued card will be useful.
Apple used to allow people to buy iTunes Store credit using Australian credit cards thorough third parties. For example, there was a time when I could buy iTunes credit from Best Buy using an Aussie credit card. But those loopholes are closed now and I'd expect Amazon to make it pretty hard to use an Australian card for purchases. So, either get one issued by a US bank using a US address from a friend or get a friend in the US to pay for the goods on your behalf.
What's the cost?
If you're determined to use amazon.com then you'll need to look at whether the extra cost and inconvenience is worth it.
VPN software prices can vary significantly. There are free services but I tend to avoid those as my trust radar wonders how the provider is making a buck without using my data.
I use NordVPN. It works well and the company has a good reputation for protecting their customers' data. Figure on adding about US$3.29 per month to your shopping costs.
However, given a VPN is useful for a lot more than overcoming geoblocking, I'd suggest that's almost a non-issue.
Not all virtual private networks (VPNs) are created equal. Some keep logs, some cap your traffic, some don't work on mobile, some don't work at all. This is what you need to know about choosing a VPN provider, as well as a few recommendations to get you started.
Freight forwarders charge in different ways depending on the item. As an example, I looked at a pair of Nike Air Pegasus 35 running shoes.
The local price is $180 according to the local Nike store.
Amazon offers the same shoe for US$114. That's $149 in local money (using xe.com for the conversion.)
Shipping using MyUS.com adds another US$41.94 to that, making the total cost about AU$204. So, it's not really worth it. ShopMate is a little cheaper at AU$38 for shipping but it's still not worth it.
Of course, things will vary considerably depending on what goods you're buying. Most freight forwarding services base their shipping rates on the item's weight. So, a high-value but lighter item could be worth buying this way. In my case, the shoes don't make sense as the cost of shipping a 2kg package worth US$120 doesn't stack up. But for a $500 item the equation can shift significantly.
Using a VPN to overcome geoblocking will help with accessing digital products like music and books.
Amazon has been limiting access to Kindle books through amazon.com.au for some time. That's mainly due to arcane licensing and distribution agreements that were written at about the same time people shared content by carving on stone.
In any case, it seems that purchasing books from the Kindle store will still be possible if you use a VPN to get past the geoblock.
As far as payment goes, unless Amazon starts blocking local credit cards in the US version of the Kindle store then you should be OK. IF they do, then you'll need to get yourself a US credit card.
Existing content is unaffected, although if you get a new device and want to redownload all your electronic goods from Amazon, you'll most likely need to use a VPN to overcome Amazon's redirection to the Australian site.
Is beating the geoblocking worth it?
The decision on whether using a VPN and freight-forwarding to overcome the local geoblock will come down to doing your homework. Even when an item looks to be much cheaper at amazon.com, like my shoes, but the time you add the shipping cost from a US address, you could end up paying substantially more.
For books and music a VPN should suffice and, given you may already have one, it really boils down to local versus overseas pricing once you take into account exchange rates.
Getting around the geobloack by Amazon is not going to be difficult. But the cost of doing so, unless you're visiting the US or can cut the shipping cost back some other way, will depend on what you're buying and the exchange rate at that time.