E-fairness laws could help small businesses compete with online - WDRB 41 Louisville News

E-fairness laws could help small businesses compete with online prices

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- Businesses like Pieratt’s in Lexington have to compete with online retailers every day and the owners say they're losing money because of it. So now they're looking to Congress to fix what they call a broken system.

"We want to make our choices by looking at what's available rather than just seeing it on paper,” said appliance shopper Judy Seebach.

That's the beauty of brick and mortar shopping.

“They do everything to make it possible for Kentuckians to see the product; touch the product,” said Bruce Pieratt, owner of “Pieratt’s” in Lexington, KY.

But sometimes the online prices just can't be beat.

"It's a gross rejection we feel. It's like something we can't help," Pieratt admitted.

His business is one of many in Kentucky that lose business to online retailers regularly.

"We show a customer a product and they end up buying it online to save the 6 percent," said Pieratt.

Kentucky's 6 percent sales tax only applies to physical businesses. Online-only retailers like EBay, Overstock and Blue Nile aren't required by law to collect it. So their prices are typically cheaper, making it hard for Pieratt’s to compete.

That's why the Kentucky Retail Federation is pushing for "E-fairness" legislation.

The two federal bills would empower states to enforce sales tax laws on online-only businesses. That means the prices online could soon be closer to those in stores.

“Sure you're going to have people upset by it.  But the data indicates that the vast majority of Kentuckians support E-fairness,” said Jan Gould, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the Kentucky Retail Federation.

The data shows the following:

  • 71 percent of voters in Kentucky support an e-fairness law
  • 61 percent of voters in Kentucky would NOT change the way they shop online as a result of e-fairness legislation
  • 52 percent of Kentuckians believe the current uneven playing field is inherently unfair

"One of the largest retailers in the world, which is Amazon, they're a supporter.  Because they have brick and mortar in all the states, so they have to collect the sales tax anyways," said Pieratt.

The bills could be a game changer for online shopping and business owners fighting for fairness.

Supporters say the legislation could also bring more money into the state.

The Kentucky Retail Federation and small business owners are hoping Congress passes both bills by the end of 2015.

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