Important Things to Know When Online Shopping in Australia

online shopping in australia

This article is sponsored by Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

Student life can be hectic. Trying to balance academia, work and extracurricular activities can leave little time for much else, including shopping for key necessities. Fortunately, online shopping offers a hassle-free and convenient alternative that fits seamlessly into students’ busy schedules. 

Although online shopping lets you secure your purchase in just a few clicks, it can be difficult to know where to begin as an international student. What are the best websites for online shopping? What goods can be purchased online or sent to you from overseas? Will you have to pay tax on online purchases? The following tips will answer all of these questions and guide you on the best practices for online shopping in Australia. 

Explore online marketplaces 

If you’re looking to buy or sell previously owned goods, then online marketplaces can be great and affordable options. Sellers list the items they’re looking to sell and interested buyers can privately message them to enquire about purchasing. Sites such as these are very compatible with a student budget – since the goods are usually used, they are generally more affordable and price negotiation is also very common on these platforms.

That said, it’s essential to be careful when corresponding and meeting with potential sellers. Firstly, be wary of scams: avoid sending money to sellers before you meet them and/or before you have the product in your possession. If a seller is asking you to send them money in advance or to provide extensive personal information, you should avoid this individual altogether; no purchase is worth compromising your security. 

If you are going to meet with a potential seller to check out an available item, be sure to meet in a public, well-lit place and tell a friend or loved one where you’re going, who you’re meeting, and when you’re meeting them. Doing so will ensure both a satisfactory purchase and your safety.

Abide by Australian importation laws

Though it may seem obvious, you must abide by Australian laws while you’re living here and it’s important to remember this rule applies to the realm of online shopping. While some goods are prohibited altogether, certain goods are permitted in Australia but may require treatment, permits, or additional documentation, which can often come at an additional cost for the buyer. Therefore, to save yourself time and money, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with Australia’s importation laws. 

A great way to do this is by using the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON). With this tool, you can search for the product you want to buy and view its importation conditions. This is an especially helpful tool when considering food or plant purchases from overseas, which have particularly strict importation laws due to biosecurity and health concerns. 

It is important to tell friends and relatives overseas to check these requirements before sending care packages or gifts to you in the mail. Goods that do not meet import conditions may be exported from Australia or destroyed.

Remember that every shipment to Australia is assessed at the border and any package that conveys an attempt to conceal prohibited goods may lead to an investigation and possible prosecution. 

Be aware of GST on imported goods

One of the perks of online shopping is the availability of products from all around the world; however, it’s important to note that goods being shipped to Australia from overseas are subject to GST, otherwise known as goods and services tax. This tax is 10 per cent of the value of goods purchased and it applies to low-value goods, meaning goods that hold a customs value of AU$1,000 or less. For example, if you were to buy goods valued at AU$100 from an overseas supplier, the GST on this sale would be AU$10.  

Another thing to note when you’re online shopping in Australia is that GST is typically payable at the time of purchase. Although, this doesn’t necessarily require any additional action from the consumer. Most of the time, the GST is included in the advertised price of the product or automatically added at the checkout, so you don’t need to worry about paying the GST separately.