Australia Post is trialling a subscription-based delivery service for online purchases with around 40 local retailers, including Myer, Target and Harvey Norman.
The service, called Shipster, requires users to pay an initial fee of $9.95 - and then $6.95 a month from next year - to qualify for free shipping on orders lodged with the participating retailers.
There are additional conditions attached to the purchases: they must be over $25 and the postage fees being waived are capped at $20, which means large, heavy items would not qualify.
Australia Post is currently limiting Shipster sign-ups to residents of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane metropolitan areas.
There are curbs on users getting deliveries outside the three metros. “The maximum number of separate deliveries ordered for locations outside the eligible metro areas must not exceed five over any three-month period,” AusPost said in a fair use policy.
There is also an overall limit on how much any Shipster user can buy: “no more than 60 transactions may be made using your Shipster account in any three-month period, regardless of delivery location”.
AusPost warns further that it will “generally consider that more than 160 individual transactions in a 12-month period would constitute excessive use”.
It said that it could cut off users and prevent them from re-subscribing if the policy was breached.
Users of the service would need to enter their email address at the e-commerce checkout to confirm they were Shipster members and, therefore, qualify for free shipping.
Other participating retailers include Toys R Us, Kogan and Booktopia.
While Shipster could encourage online shoppers to make more frequent purchases, some concerns have been raised about whether that will be good for retailers in the long term.
Some participating e-commerce providers already offer free shipping on purchases over $100, and it was unclear if they would be better off servicing a larger number of low-value purchases.
Shipster is the second startup-like business that AusPost has created in recent months.
In June, iTnews revealed the existence of Bill Scanner, an email add-on tool that uses machine learning to find unpaid bills and itemise when they need to be paid. Like Shipster, it is also under trial.