Shop anywhere without borders

Furthermore, the service represents an explicit move to regain control of goods delivery through freight forwarders.

In fact, Amazon has specifically excluded any liability for goods shipped through services like Price USA and, according to its terms and conditions, "is not able to provide a replacement of, or refund for, any goods delivered to a freight forwarder" unless they're part of the AmazonGlobal range.

In other words, AmazonGlobal represents both a carrot — convenience — and a stick, in that it signifies Amazon's efforts to dictate the terms by which its products ship around the world.

Expect other online vendors to follow suit as overseas shipping becomes an even bigger issue for rights-concerned US brands. (Note that AmazonGlobal is not mandatory, and most of its products can still either be shipped directly overseas or to US-based freight forwarders).

Tips to improve your overseas shopping

Shop around

Don't get carried away just because you find a good price; retail competition in the US is intense and you may well find a better deal from another shop using price comparison sites Most freight forwarders will hold onto purchases from multiple stores, then repackage them into one shipment for you.

Compare configurations

It's easy to get excited about the price difference between US and Australian stores for what appears to be the same product, but be sure you're comparing apples with apples. Particularly with computers, Australian retailers often choose well-spec'd machines to justify their higher prices, while US stores offer low-spec'd versions of a model to get shoppers over the line. Make sure you're buying what you want, and not just because the price is low.

Choose your partner carefully

Like finding a good hairstylist, finding a good overseas freight forwarder can make all the difference. The thing is, you don't know if they're good without trying them. If you're considering a new service, try them with a low-value purchase first and pay careful attention to how responsive they are, how much they charge, what hidden fees they charge (for example, for combining shipments), how ready they are to help you with returning products, and whether they're proactive in areas such as finding better prices or volunteering to cut down packaging to save shipping costs.

Consider return policies

Australia's consumer protection laws end at Australian borders. Most products you buy from overseas will be fine, but every once in a while you may need to return something that's damaged during delivery, or just not right. Be sure you read your US merchant's return policies — many only offer free returns from within the US, which means you'd have to return the product to your freight forwarder or pay shipping costs back to the merchant.

Weigh your warranty

Many electronics products are designed for worldwide use and carry relatively generous warranty provisions, but some only offer warranties to US residents. Unless you're happy to wear that risk, make sure you have at least weighed up the likely cost of repairs to an overseas-purchased product against the cost of a local buy and supporting warranty.

Read the terms and conditions

US merchants are aware of the use of freight forwarders, particularly by Australians — who are becoming known for their love of a bargain. Most have no issue with where their products end up, but some will limit their exposure to returns and damaged goods. Amazon, for example, will not offer refunds or replacements for damage on any product delivered to a freight forwarder — unless that product is part of its limited AmazonGlobal range.