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Buy.com nixes most shipping charges

The online retailer plans to announce Wednesday a free-shipping offer that doesn't require a minimum purchase, but some products will not be covered by the offer.

    Buy.com has seen Amazon.com's latest free-shipping offer and is raising the stakes.

    The online retailer plans to announce Wednesday a free-shipping offer that, unlike Amazon's, doesn't require a minimum purchase, company spokeswoman Stacey Doherty said Tuesday. Some of the company's products will not be covered by the offer, but it will cover a majority of items on Buy.com, including books and consumer electronics products, she said.

    On Tuesday, Amazon revised its own free-shipping program, lowering the minimum purchase required from $99 to $49. Buy.com's move is a response to Amazon's update of its program, Doherty said.

    "Amazon claims they 'lowered the hurdle' with their free shipping offer. Buy.com just ran that hurdle over with our free-shipping truck," Buy.com Chief Executive Officer Scott Blum said in a statement.

    Free shipping was standard fare at many Web stores during the dot-com boom. But under pressure from Wall Street to produce profits during the subsequent dot-com bust, many companies dropped their free-shipping programs and other discounts and raised prices.

    Amazon started experimenting again with free shipping last summer, picking up the shipping charges when customers ordered two or more books, CDs or videos. The move was quickly matched by Barnes&Noble.com, which kept its free-shipping offer in place even after Amazon stopped its test of the program.

    Amazon kicked off a broader shipping war this winter when it announced that it would permanently extend a holiday promotion that offered free shipping on purchases of $99 or more. Buy.com, KBToys.com and Banana Republic's online store quickly followed suit, although KBToys.com and Banana Republic later discontinued their offers.

    As with Amazon's program, Buy.com previously offered free shipping on purchases of $99 or more. Products currently marked on the site as being eligible for free shipping will continue to be eligible under the revised program, Doherty said.