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NZ e-commerce repositions to meet government guidelines

Many online businesses and marketplaces may be very popular to consumers during the COVID-19 outbreak and offer their services as much as they can, but in New Zealand their services are restricted while on lockdown.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) clarified consumers will only be able to shop for essential goods online such as food, beverages, health and sanitation products and toiletries while the country is on COVID-19 alert level 4.

And couriers have been instructed that only those essential items can be delivered to consumers, according to the MBIE.

“Many New Zealanders now receive their food via a delivery company and are in effect no different to a supermarket delivery option,” said MBIE deputy chief executive Paul Stocks.

The country is now on lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus and the government has announced only the “businesses absolutely essential to ensure the necessities of life, like supermarkets and pharmacies, can stay open.”

But some pharmacies, part of the essential businesses, have announced plans to reduce their opening hours to allow them to process the large number of prescriptions they are receiving. Some have announced they might offer delivery services instead, for a small fee.   

“However, this will be at the discretion of individual pharmacies, depending on their available resources,” according to the Pharmaceutical Society. said in accordance with the government’s guidance, they have re-enabled certain stores on their online marketplace which offer items viewed as essentials during the lockdown.

“This will be a limited range of stores and products within the description of Food, Beverage, Pet and Healthcare,” the company said. “At this point we have been informed that our wine and beer merchants fall under such description so some are now open again for orders.”

TheMarket said delivery times may be subject to delays but clarified that NZ Post and many of their couriers have been instructed that they can continue to deliver orders over the coming weeks, as long as the items fall under essential items.

According to TheMarket, all of their delivery partners have now put in place contactless delivery for the well-being of both customers and the couriers. Instead of a physical signature, a verbal signature will be requested, upon confirmation of the buyer’s name. 

The NZ government had announced that the people can only post or courier items that are essential to the provision of the necessities of life.

“During this period, our postal and courier service will be busy helping our society receive items and goods that are essential,” the announcement read. “Adding additional pressure and burden to that service may impact on societies wider ability to get through this period, and to stop the virus in its tracks.”

Online marketplace TradeMe cautioned their buyers that only some trades will be able to be completed as normal and would depend on whether the seller is an essential business, professional seller or casual seller.

“You can still browse listings from casual sellers and place bids,” TradeMe stated. “However, you won’t be able to complete the purchase while NZ is at alert level 4. We’re taking these steps because we don’t want to encourage any non-essential travel, face-to-face contact or courier bookings.”

The company said buyers can still browse and purchase listings from professional sellers, however the only payment option will be Ping so that they are covered by their buyer protection policy.

“If a seller is an essential business, they’ll be able to courier the item to you as soon as possible,” the e-commerce site said. “If they aren’t an essential business, the item will not be sent to you until we’re no longer at alert level 4 which could be longer than four weeks. We’ll hold the funds until all courier bookings and pick-ups are able to proceed again.”

Sellers can continue to create auctions and these will be extended. Members, however, won’t be able to buy the items but those can be saved or placed on their Watchlist.

Trade Me said their Book a Courier service is not available at this time.

“Any couriers booked in the last few days will still be collected and delivered but no new bookings can be made.”

TheMarket has disabled its MarketPoint locations pick up services for the safety of their customers and staff.

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