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Regulating online shopping

By Jean-Claude Elias - Aug 22,2019 - Last updated at Aug 22,2019

Regulating and controlling the Internet, in general, is no picnic – and online shopping is no exception. It is particularly difficult when the goods are imported from outside the country they are to be delivered to, for it disturbs the normal functioning of its tax and customs departments, two essential governmental institutions, as well as the balance of country’s internal commercial distribution outlets. This of course applies only if and when the volume of online imported shopping reaches a significant amount, a given threshold, which apparently is now the case in Jordan.

From Amazon to Alibaba and countless other sites, a non-negligible number of Jordanian consumers are hooked on online shopping from abroad, for all the (good) reasons that make it more attractive than traditional local shopping, in most cases. Though no numbers about the actual volume of these personal imports have been disclosed at this point by the authorities, the customs department has just released this week new rules for personal orders placed online this way.

In short, the rules make it mandatory to pre-declare the goods on a specific Jordan Customs Internet platform and to pay customs duties, taxes and service fees on the shipments. “Shipments valued under JD50 will be subject to [pay] JD5, and those valued between 51 and JD100 will be subject to [pay] JD10.” Moreover, and for these fees to apply, one given consumer (or account) must not exceed a total of JD500 orders per year. In all other cases, standard customs fees and clearing procedures will apply, the same as “for passengers’ luggage”.

Interestingly the above is true only for certain categories of goods: namely “apparel and clothing, shoes, children’s toys and food items”. All other items fall into the “passengers’ luggage” rules mentioned above. 

Regulating is understandable, but are the new rules fair enough to the population? Does protecting the local retail business justify these rules? For until now any personal single order entering the country and estimated at under JD100 was completely free of duties and taxes.

It is hard at this point in time to say what is really fair and what is not. The weight of online shopping in the world has reached gigantic proportions. It is perhaps worth remembering that Jeff Bezos, the boss of Amazon, the largest online shopping outlet of them all, is the richest man in the world, according to Forbes’ March 2019 edition.

Following in the footsteps of the giants abroad, the number of local outlets where you can place online orders is also increasing. For example, City Centre Computers, one of well-known suppliers of computers and IT goods of all kinds in Amman, takes online orders and will deliver them to your doorsteps. If your order is above JD100, the delivery will be done free-of-charge, what’s more.

A number of fast-food restaurants in Amman, as well as most large supermarkets, also offer online ordering service. Some even have their own, locally designed, mobile app to make using the service fast, easy and pleasant. The trend is slowly but surely reaching all types of retail businesses in the country. However, and for some time at least, the volume will remain insignificant compared to the size of shopping imports from Amazon and the like.

In any case, the new customs regulations for online shopping from abroad are now the talk of the town. Many are asking whether with time the rules will get tighter, or on the contrary, may be softened a bit.

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