Businesses Tracking Customers, digital invoicing/receipts

I’ve recently made a purchase at a Chemist WareHouse. I paid by contactless with a CC for approx $30+. The sales person at the counter requested a mobile number to issue the receipt to. I asked why and relied she could not have it. There was no offer of a paper receipt, and a sales reply that I would not get a receipt without.

I’ve had similar sometime back when Square terminals first appeared in stores with no printer.

Two questions come to mind.

  1. Firstly is this now likely to become a norm, or are some businesses out to hoodwink the customer?
  2. Second point is what is legally enforceable as a customer, and should the store staff be more careful in what they say to avoid misleading the customer?

The following suggests I’m entitled to a receipt. It does not specified how it is to be delivered. This looks like one more privacy invasive and data gathering technique?


Not a problem.

The business can print a receipt, or they can get a pen and paper and write it down.

The law specifies the details required.


You are entitled to ask for a tax invoice/receipt, however this can be digital or paper.

The advice from our tax accountant indicates that digital or scanned copies if a tax invoice is a valid form for tax reporting purposes. It is also confirmed on the ATO website. There is no need to keep shoeboxes of paper receipts if they are also stored in an electronic form. Electronic also makes keeping a backup easier and providing copies for tax reporting purposes.

We have also found on numerous occasions digital or scanned receipts are valid when making a warranty claim.

Our local Chemist Warehouse has indicated it is now company policy to offer electronic receipts. Only paper receipts are printed when a customer asks specifically for one. We always now ask for one.

This article confirms this…

There is also a push to remove paper receipts/tax invoices where possible as they have an environmental cost as well as are often too small to be recycled by conventional means (the cause blockages MURF screening processes).

Because of this, we have also taken this approach, like many other businesses. We only issue paper copies when specifically asked and electronic issuing isn’t possible.

How is hoodwinking a customer. Electronic receipts can be issued via mobile text or email. The only customers which may be disadvantaged is those without a basic mobile which accepts text messages or doesn’t use email/internet. In such case, a written receipt on a piece of paper that meets the minimum tax invoice requirements is still possible.

We use SquareUp without a receipt printer and have produced paper copies of the receipt/tax invoice for our own customers who want a paper receipt. It is worth noting the standard SquareUp receipt isn’t a tax invoice (it is a credit card slip), and this is outlined on the receipt.

It isn’t misleading the customer as electronic and paper receipts have the same status as outlined above. It is also possible to get paper copies if one asks, even if it isn’t initially offered as an option at the point if sale.

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Is it misleading for the sales counter person to say I will not get a receipt if I don’t share my mobile number? Or is it my error in not correcting the store staff?

Is the store legally required to provide the receipt at that time? I was not one to make it an issue. Is it worth considering for amounts less than $75 the store has 7 days to provide the receipt?

I might suggest they post it to me to see where that leads. However I can’t find any reference to say it must be a paper version, printed or hand written. Can you clarify, not what can be done, but whether it must be a physical document if requested?

Many businesses I’ve made purchases from continue to provide paper printed receipts. Several have offered the ‘or would you prefer it emailed’. It’s a surprise to be told I can’t get one without providing my mobile number.

There are numerous businesses with whom all my transactions including invoicing, payments and receipts are digital and paperless. Some are for in person sales. Given we have ongoing close business there is little concern re privacy or tracking. I know where they live as much as the reverse. For a national retail chain I may use from time to time in various locations and for products of a personal nature. I don’t see the benefit to myself, but I can to their business model. Is there any assurance they are not aggregating sakes data by mobile, or email and optionally combined with other resources? As for the facial recognition discussion, perhaps the business model is ahead of our privacy legislation, and enforcement.


A mobile number is only needed for electronic tax invoice by text message, not a paper receipt.

As indicated in the AFR article and our own experience, a paper tax invoice can still be printed and you don’t need a mobile number to print a tax invoice.


These days ‘electronic mail’ seems to mean both the original using an email address, and now the phone network using a phone number and SMS/MMS.

I am sure businesses would love to get rid of those receipt printers with rolls of paper that cost money to buy, and jam, and run out, and have faults.

And manually writing out receipts on paper with the requisite details like business name and ABN and date and amount could be all too hard for some of the younger generation that have rarely used things like pens or pencils.


If it needs to be an e-receipt, offer them email, in which case you get a PDF you can file and won’t fade like receipt printer issued ones (which if important need to be copied before filing). OfficeWorks is good at this.

I think that mobile number distribution is a key piece of data for scammers and I am careful in selecting the few people/organisations that have my number. I hope savvy organisations keep developing simple 2 factor authentication alternatives to mobile phone numbers.


I would prefer the option of taking a photo of their screen as a receipt. I also don’t like giving my phone number to everyone, for security and to avoid bombardment of unwanted texts about ‘great sales’


Bunnings offer the option of texting the receipt instead of printing one out. And I believe Woolworths have offered an electronic receipt in addition to the tracking I can do through the WW rewards card.

I may be old fashioned, but I still like to have the paper receipts so I can reconcile my credit card statement.


It’s an uncommon occurrence, but I’m left to ask how one responds when challenged over the contents of one’s shopping bag in another store without a receipt to hand. Is the assumption we are all digitally connected at all times to our email and or our mobile services?

Retailers encourage changes in consumer behaviour with good reason. Is the cost saving in the printed receipt really that great?
Does it justify the considerable expense of a centralised system for collecting the receipts and administering the delivery via email or SMS?

The cynic suggests it’s just another form of loyalty card. To access your receipt connect using the link emailed or sent by SMS. The ideal retail opportunity to add value to the experience of accessing the receipt by displaying more special offers, offering a free customer feedback prompt (aka mind altering experience), etc because you …… :rofl:

There is a profession and businesses built on change management. Offering skills and strategies that can alter the outlook of employees, change the behaviours of would be customers, or guide the local community to the developers favour are just a few of the products for sale. /Cynical or just the way the world now is?


There’s advantages in digital receipts, one being being the Bunnings app for a mobile phone. Why? Because a lot of Bunnings tools and equipment carry a 3-year warranty. A thermally printed receipt wouldn’t last that long – it would fade beyond legibility. Having the salesperson scan your app barcode at checkout ensures you’ve got authentic, non-deniable proof of purchase. It’s device agnostic too. Lose your phone, and when you’ve got a replacement, simply reinstall the app. Voila, all your receipts back!
Downside? It’s a slow, slooww app.


What happens if you say that you don’t have a mobile phone? That is usually my go-to option.

You won’t get away with that if you paid via NFC to a mobile phone :rofl: but otherwise …

Plus the spamming.
Plus the unknown privacy risks.
Plus the scope creep of the app.

But then if you end up in a dispute with them and the only place the receipts exist is on their server, that won’t be in your interest.

Even if the receipts exist within their app on your phone, you are still handing over a level of control over the receipts in the event of a dispute.

Very likely true but in that case I would just scan (or photograph) the receipt when I get home on the day of purchase.

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A flip side to losing privacy is that I have come across a number of merchants, bricks and mortar as well as online, who track me via my mobile number. Some of the real benefits have been:

  • a pressure washer has been in for warranty repair and seemed like a black hole. I rang and mentioned I was after an update for my warranty claim and they immediately gave me an update - no details required. They knew me from the caller-ID.
  • I had an ordering problem with an online merchant. I rang for help. Their CRM system picked up the caller-ID and connected to my in-progress but uncompleted order. I explained what would not work and they fixed it quickly.

Everyone will have different views on whether this is helpful, beneficial, invasive, or whatever. There are benefits for those who appreciate them; for those who do not it appears to be a quagmire difficult to escape.


It may be very good for business to use paperless receipts; I understand that as I have owned several businesses. But we must look at risk and rewards. Rewards for the business, perhaps the charges incurred by using a credit card will be removed by banks, BUT the risk is too much for private information (phone numbers) in the hands of businesses who can be hacked very easily. If we have not learnt by now that hackers are out to exploit people with ransom demands, I would hate to think of information from Pharmacy Direct or any other pharmacy will be as bad as Medibank hack. So do not ask for mobile phone numbers please. Juno

An over-engineered compromise solution would be that you download your receipt from the retailer’s web site. That way you don’t have to surrender either mobile phone number or email address but the retailer avoids printing the receipt. Web sites are not immune to tracking but it gives you better options to reduce tracking and makes the retailer work harder if they want to track you.

(For example, if you download the receipt then and there using your mobile phone then the mobile phone will likely have a private IP address assigned internally by your mobile service provider and the IP address seen by the company’s server will be a multiplexed IP address being used by zillions of the mobile service provider’s customers via CGNAT. So that immediately distances you from the retailer’s web server.)

Another approach would be that the retailer’s cash register shows a QR code, which you scan on your mobile phone and the QR code is the receipt. (NB: the QR code is not a URL i.e. not a link to the receipt for download, although that would work too, as proposed above.) With this approach there is no online communication between the customer and the retailer, hence even less option for tracking.

In either case, there are options for the receipt to be digitally signed, so that receipts can’t be forged or altered, and realistically can’t be repudiated by the issuing company. (This is of course an improvement over a paper receipt.)

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I’d go with either version for a digital receipt.

For those thinking this discussion is not warranted. Note that for payment through a retailer who uses Square, having used your email or mobile for a digital receipt once, Square save your mobile no or email alongside the card details. The next time you use that retailer with the same card, the receipt is sent without further need to provide your preferred email or mobile number.

The mobile no or email address is saved as a reference with the card details by Square. It’s also possible for a customer to retrieve a receipt at a future time from Square.

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… for release in a future data breach? :wink:

Dare I ask what happens if you change mobile number or email address and forget to tell them? Mobile number would be particularly unpleasant as the number will, sooner or later, be released to another mobile customer.

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You don’t tell them. The mobile number and/or email address is prefilled in the App in readiness for credit card/receipt issuing. The customer checks the details, updates if necessary, before selecting a receipt issuing option. If details are wrong, such as email address incorrectly typed or new email/mobile number, updating saves new details for future prefilling.

It is worth noting that be details aren’t available to or accessible to the merchant…only stored by SquareUp as a faster way to issue electronic credit card slips/receipts.

Being a licenced financial service provider in Australia, SquareUp is required to comply with laws relating to privacy and information handling. These requirements are no different to other AFS licensees such as banks etc.

If one wants their details removed from automatic prefilling, they need to contact SquareUp. A merchant doesn’t have access to do this.


Sorry merchant person.

I don’t have an ‘app’. Or maybe I do but it’s in the car. Do you do ‘square’?

Give me a break. :roll_eyes:

Just print out the receipt. Or get a pen and paper and write it out the old-fashioned way. Or you lose your sale.

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Yes, we use SquareUp in the business as outlined above (noting that it was recommended by our business banker as an alternative to their merchant banking facilities) and also explained how receipts/tax invoices can be issued by any business (either electronic or paper).

A customer can chose how a receipt is issued and can request a paper copy … and refuse a electronic copy if they see fit. It isn’t losing a sale or a customer - it is meeting the request of a customer which is good customer service.

Most of our customers if they want a receipt/credit card skip ask for a electronic copy issued by the SquareUp app at the point of sale. Less than 0.2% ask for a paper copy (only one in three years). Many customers now use phone apps for payment (maybe 30-40%) which records each transaction as it is taken - meaning that credit card slips or receipt are no longer needed. Tax Invoices are issued separately when requested and usually send electronically. We have provided two paper copies (along with emailed copies) of the tax invoice (also in 3 years).

Most customers have embraced electronic receipts/tax invoices, and we have done likewise where possible. Many businesses/individuals find electronic copies useful for preparing tax returns/BAS statements (especially if another party provides such services) and for keeping records in the long term as required by law.

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