While it’s interesting that disparate souls such as Gov. LePage and Rep. Chellie Pingree agree on the Marketplace Fairness Act (Internet commerce tax), I suspect that neither has considered one important thing.  

If I buy something in Maine and duly pay the sales tax on it, should the product prove defective and the vendor refuse to honor the warranty, I can contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Maine Attorney General’s Office, and it has the authority to sort things out.

But what if, for instance, I buy something online from Nebraska, pay the sales tax via the future automatic tax provisions and then run into similar problems with a disreputable merchant? Will the state of Maine go to bat for me in Nebraska? Of course not! It has no jurisdiction, and will probably just refer me to Google to find the contact information for Nebraska’s attorney general, who has little interest in making some yokel from Maine happy. Unless nationwide consumer protection rules are incorporated into an Internet commerce tax scheme, we are being taxed without being represented.

This is not about marketplace “fairness,” after all. It’s about revenue for the states. The concept of “fairness” for brick-and-mortar merchants is a red herring also. There is little sense in driving to Portland, burning up fuel and time, when I can order online from a merchant who has what I need in stock, rather than hearing “I can have it for you in three days” and having to make a second trip.

Internet commerce is where things are going, and if the state wants to tax it, the state needs to uphold its end of the bargain by watching out for the consumer.

Norman Blake is a resident of West Baldwin.