Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2019 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at

Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

Should free shipping be illegal?

1 June 2021

One of the biggest drawcards for online shopping is the promise by some vendors that you'll get free shipping.

As the effects of CV19 work to significantly increase the cost of freight around the world, the lure of "free shipping" has become even greater than it was a few years ago.

Perhaps the one thing that has stimulated the growth of sites like Banggood and AliExpress has been the fact that you can (or at least "could") get seemingly huge, heavy items delivered to your door for just $1 in international shipping charges. This gave such vendors a huge advantage over even those local merchants who could price-match because postage/courier within NZ has always been expensive.

Now there are calls for free shipping to be considered "anti-competitive".

Some countries such as France have actually banned free shipping on the basis that it distorts the marketplace and gives certain (usually much larger) retailers an unfair advantage over others.

However, it's not just the Chinese who have latched onto the immense competitive advantage that "free shipping" offers. Indeed, one needs look no further than the mighty to see a perfect example of market distortion as a result of this strategy.

Those who pay an annual fee for Amazon Prime get priority shipping at free or near-free rates and since, in many countries, Amazon runs its own delivery fleet, this might give them an unfair advantage over other etailers.

Based on this premise, the Washington DC Attorney General has filed an antitrust law suit against Amazon in the USA.

The claims are that by offering its Prime customers free/near-free shipping, Amazon is exploiting its dominance to distort the market, to the cost of smaller players.

There are also claims that as a result of its market dominance, the company is also raising prices to increase its margins and abusing its virtual monopoly power by forcing third-party sellers on its platform to actually cover the shipping costs themselves -- thus allowing the giant to advertise "free" shipping to the purchaser.

Of course we've seen sellers fiddle with freight charges for a long time but often it's the complete reverse of Amazon's strategy. Many sellers using online auction sites will deliberately reduce the price of their items but hike "shipping & handling" fees well above the actual cost. They do this so as to reduce the amount of commission payable to the platform they're using.

There are even some sites that offer "free" products -- just pay the shipping charges. We know how that works!

As freight charges continue to climb, due to risking fuel charges, reduced passenger travel on international routes and other factors, the ability for sellers to offer free shipping may already be coming to an end. Perhaps "market forces" will ensure that the days of the free lunch are drawing to a close anyway.

I have to admit that many of the places from where I used to purchase a good amount of stuff have disappeared off my bookmark list due to the rising cost of shipping. There's no point in buying a $5 widget from China if it's going to cost $50 to have it shipped to New Zealand is there? Far better to simply buy the same widget for $30 from a local supplier.

With this in mind, I think local retailers are going to benefit (at least for the time being) from the paucity of free shipping offers.

What do readers think? Should we follow France's lead and ban free shipping? Even if we did try to ban it, how does that get enforced on overseas purchases and who decides if shipping is being unreasonably subsidised to gain competitive advantage?

Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

Have your say in the Aardvark Forums.

PERMALINK to this column

Rank This Aardvark Page


Change Font

Sci-Tech headlines



The EZ Battery Reconditioning scam

Beware The Alternative Energy Scammers

The Great "Run Your Car On Water" Scam


Recent Columns

Do not talk about racism
When I came to New Zealand in the late 1970s it was a harmonious nation of "Kiwis"...

I call Bullshirt!
There has been a lot of talk about hydrogen being the "green" fuel we need to fight climate change...

Lies and deception
Sorry, I'm talking about drones today -- or should I say I am NOT talking about drones...

Sorry for being old and late
Wow... it's lunchtime and I'm only just getting to the Aardvark column for the day...

Legalised malware
Increased surveillance by both state and private entities is causing growing paranoia within the ranks of the general public...

Oh no, the vaccine will kill me!
I published a video last week in which I mentioned that I had received my first jab of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination...

That's working well then
The NZ government has made some sweeping changes to our gun laws of late...

Tipping point?
I read a couple of very interesting articles recently...

CV19, is the worst far from over?
July 19 is to be "freedom day" in the UK...

Plague, pestilance, now famine?
I'm not a religious person but I do admire the Bible, albeit more as a work of wonderful ambiguity than one of fact...

I got nothing
I've scanned the news-wires this morning for inspiration and I've got nothing...