Legal complications ahoy as NZ Post launches US address, ship to NZ service
NZ Post has soft-launched YouShop, a new service that gives you a postal address in the US (an NZ Post warehouse in Oregon).
The idea is if you're, say, on Amazon.com and it won't let you buy an item unless you're a US resident, you can just type in your NZ Post-supplied Oregon address.
NZ Post then ships the item on to you in New Zealand, for rates that begin at the bracing $23 for a 500g parcel.
I've signed up.
You even get a ZIP code to quote (so more 90210) and a phone number:
(I phoned that Oregon number by the way, and there's just a generic please leave a message number, spoken by a woman with an American accent, and not naming any organisation. According to Google Maps, it's the home of OIA Global Logistics, a global freight fowarding company presumably sub-contracted by NZ Post.)
I applaud this move by NZ Post.
Any step to undermine shipping restrictions - which protect regional distribution monopolies rather than copyright - has to be a good thing.
Unfortunately magazines are our, so forget about getting a $US1 an issue Wired or Vanity Fair sub forwarded on. Food is also off the table.
And things get messy if you want to return an item.
Some e-tailers have excellent returns policies - especially in the area of clothing. But I'm wondering how they'll react when they learn you're actually in NZ, not the great state of Oregon (if you want to return an item at the point you discover shipping from Oregon to NZ would cost a bomb, NZ Post will return it to the retailer for $25, NZ Post external communications manager John Tulloch told NBR).
And what's the story if I say - to give a real-life example - order a DVD boxed set that Amazon.com won't ship outside the US?
Another real-life example: I tried to buy a pretty straightforward outdoor weather station from Amazon.com, only to be told it contained restricted wireless technology so couldn't be shipped to non US residents. That seems like a petty, outdated restriction, yet Amazon reckoned it was the law.
What will NZ Post do in such circumstances? I put this to Mr Tulloch, who would only point me to the voluminous terms and conditions disclaimer on NZ Post's site:
In Sections 4 and 5, NZ Post seems to be saying it trusts you to comply with all laws, and you agree to accept all liability.
In the slightly startling Section 11, NZ Post asks you to take open-ended responsibility:
11. Your liability to us
You will pay to us on demand all, costs, claims, losses, damages, liabilities, or expenses (including fines, penalties and reasonable legal costs) which we or any of our contractors or agents suffer or incur as a result of:
any breach by you of these terms; or
the performance of the Services in respect of Your Packages, including any damage caused to our property or the property of any other person by Your Packages or the items in Your Packages.
That's followed by Section 12, which limits NZ Post's liability to you, if your package is lost, to $1500.
Ouch. So, especially you can use NZ Post to try and get around shipping restrictions to NZ.
But if you get into bother, you're on your own.
Although I'm guessing the first person who gets into strife will make their full and frank feelings known on Trade Me forums and social media.