After launching online groceries last year and diapers by subscription in June, Amazon.ca is making a play for a bigger share of the back-to-school market.
Amazon Student, launched Tuesday, offers students enrolled at universities and colleges in Canada unlimited two-day shipping free for six months, and discounts on textbooks and items including electronics and kitchen appliances.
Students are being offered discounts of up to 22 per cent on some Acer notebooks and tablets; 20 per cent on some New Chapter vitamins and for those in residence and apartments, savings on vacuum cleaners.
After the first six months of free two-day shipping, students who don’t opt out will be charged $39 a year for Amazon Prime instead of the regular $79 a year. The lower price remains in effect until they graduate or until the end of their fourth year as Amazon ‘students.’
Amazon is hoping the wide selection of items available online – including grocery items and personal care products, video games and consoles – will provide incentive to shop, coupled with the fact that students won’t have to find a ride or take public transportation to get the books they need or groceries.
Amazon.ca has more than doubled its selection of dry grocery items since launching and now offers more than 30,000 grocery items.
Amazon Student was launched in the U.S. in July 2010 and is also available in Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom.
The move puts Amazon.ca into closer competition with college and university bookstores, some of which have already been affected by online competition.
Last week The Varsity, the University of Toronto’s student newspaper, reported that Apple Canada Inc. discontinued its contracts with authorized Canadian university and college campus bookstores, partly because more students are choosing to buy directly from Apple online or from other major retail outlets.
In theory, offering students discounts on products or services as a way to save money is a great idea, said Chris Mazur, partner and senior vice-president, BDO Canada Limited
But students can run into trouble once the free offer ends and becomes a recurring fee instead.
“Not cancelling the subscription will mean they are charged for the service for the length of the contract. Charges accumulating on their credit card or money being automatically withdrawn from their bank account may leave them short of cash,” Mazur said.
“Life, school or money may get in the way of remembering to pay their credit card bill leading to interest charges, and automatic withdrawals could end up leading to overdraft charges.”
Failing to pay could negatively impact their credit rating, which remains on record for seven years.
Mazur urged students to read the contracts they sign and understand the obligations they entail. He said students need to ask themselves if they are signing up for a service they really want or need.
“Add a reminder to the calendar on your cell phone; in fact add several reminders to cancel the subscription – make it annoying until you do,” said Mazur.
“Ask your parents, if you are so inclined, to remind you – you can be sure they will not forget.”