When looking at local camera pricing last week, we were side-tracked into re-visiting the online offshore grey market, and specifically that tricky bit of it which operates with a .com.au website.
This was inspired by a ‘Black Friday’ E-mail blast from Becextech.com.au, a company which in 2017 admitted to contravening the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and provided court-enforceable undertakings, including customer refunds, in relation to offering refurbished products as new.
The promotional email from Becextetch surprised me, as I had assumed a business with such a troubled history with local consumer laws, along with customer review screaming DO NOT DEAL WITH THIS COMPANY and BE CAREFUL. DO NOT DEAL WITH THESE GUYS! would be a part of retailing history by now.
Then I jumped over to consumer review website Productreview.com.au to discover that Becextech these days has a 4.1 star customer rating, which would indicate it has changed its Australian Consumer Law-contravening ways! Becextech had over 3000 5- and 4-star reviews to around 1000 1-,2- and 3-star reviews.
The Becextech website makes a selling point of its high rankings in consumer reviews, and there’s an impressive-looking logo indicating Becextech won something called the ‘Australian Enterprise Award for Best Online Consumer Electronics Retailer’ just last year. Blimey, the leopard can change its spots!
But a closer look at the Productreview.com.au reviews revealed that although a lot of customers were extremely happy dealing with Becextech, quite a few others had toe-curling tales of retail woe. How could a retailer be that good for three out of four customer/reviewers and attract considerable hostility from the other quarter? Why did so few reviewers have a merely average experience with Becextech?
And with User Reviews regularly cited as one of the most important factors in purchasing decisions, do outfits like Productreview.com.au and the likes of Trustpilot/Shopper Approved – a huge global business in itself – need to lift their game?
Collecting and publishing positive reviews is big business in itself. Scroll down the ProductReview ratings for Becextech and under many of the most positive reviews there’s a line stating: The reviewer stated that an incentive was offered for this review.
Many international retailers outsource the process of soliciting reviews to operations like Shopper Approved, which has the smell of a conflict of interest.
Putting Review is Verified and Submitted on Product Review filters in to the Productreview reviews resulted in over 3000 5- and 4-star reviews being reduced to 425, with 220 1-,2-, and 3-star reviews – way off an average rating with a 4 in front of it. With a more reliable data set, that one-in-four chance of disappointment became a one in three chance. But the pattern of extreme joy or extreme unhappiness with Becextech continued. Here’s four recent consecutive review headlines:
5 star: Very happy (with) Nikkor lens bought from BecexTech
1 Star: Never buy again. Careful
1 Star: My “as new phone” was covered in scratches and took over a month to get!!! AVOID
4-star: Speedy delivery! Bought “as new” and satisfied
1-star: Faulty item delivered no refund or replacement DO NOT USE THESE GUYS $1300 gone!
Interestingly, Becextech is more a local retailer than one might assume. While product is shipped from HK, Becextech Australia is registered for GST, has an ABN (although this is not published on the website) and is owned by an Indonesian national who has an address in Victoria.
The 2018 change to GST on low-value import requires international retailers selling into the Australian market to be registered with the ATO and collect GST for sales under 1000 Australian dollars at the online checkout.
But there’s a loophole. The ATO doesn’t demand that businesses issue tax invoices with the GST component separated out. Becextech states: ‘The price… shall be inclusive of all costs of carriage and applicable import Tax and duty unless it’s not LVIG [under $1000] which the buyer might pay.’
Given Becextech is registered to collect GST, if you ask, you will probably receive an actual tax invoice with which you can reclaim GST if the purchase is in relation to an ABN-issued business. But only the ATO would know whether Becextech pays GST on every single under $1000 sale.
Another online-offshore retailer which sales close to the wind is CCC Warehouse. Even though it kicks off its T&Cs with an acknowledgement to country and has the website URL cccwarehouse.com.au, this business is a HK subsidiary of a parent company out of China.
CCC Warehouse is rated as Productreview’s 3rd Best Electronics and Computer Shop, with an incredible – in the 20th century meaning of the word – average rating of 4.9 from 652 5-star reviews. But if we filter out the non-verified reviews, the 652 5-Star reviews drops to just 122. According to Productreview, not one of the 700-odd reviews were incentivised.
CCC has an different approach to Becextech when it comes to handling GST, claiming that is not exporting from Hong Kong, the customer is importing, that cccwarehouse.com.au is a HK company and thus it has has no responsibility for complying with Australian tax law.
You are responsible for ensuring that the goods the subject of your order can be lawfully imported to the destination country (i.e., Australia/New Zealand). You are the importer of the goods and must comply with all laws and regulations of the destination country. You acknowledge and agree that the Company’s role is limited to procuring products available in Hong Kong and other regions and making these products available through the site to you for purchase in Hong Kong and for your import to your country. In no event will the Company be a party to the import of such products nor will it be responsible for any liability arising under the laws of any country other than Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for the import and sale of products available on the site, including without limitation customs regulations and customs holds, detentions and seizures and copyright and trademark laws.
Yet when I communicated with the CCC chatbot, the staff-member told us they do issue a tax invoice for reclaiming GST from the ATO. We also asked whether they charge GST on goods above the $1000 mark. The response was ‘Price includes all charges. So there won’t be additional costs.’ So there you go.
– By the way, you have to be impressed by CCC Warehouse’s chutzpah in matching Canon Australia’s confidence-inspiring 5-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty with a global warranty from a mob called CPS (Not Canon Professional Services) for just $131.95. ‘Including GST’.