Which Digital Goods Price Disparity Bugs You The Most?

Which Digital Goods Price Disparity Bugs You The Most?

The Australian dollar has been near parity with the US for some time, but situations where purchasers in Australia are charged a premium simply for being Australian remain distressingly common. That arrangement seems particularly offensive when it comes to digital goods — after all, they’re not already sitting in a warehouse somewhere.

Mark at our sibling title and bible of all things gaming Kotaku highlighted an interesting example last week. While most massively multiplayer online (MMO) games charge a US dollar subscription rate regardless of player location, the newly-launched DC Universe has a separate price for Australians, $19.95. That makes it costlier than the US price of $14.99, and there’s no extra benefits (such as local servers) to offset that difference.

This apparent shift in policy/blatant example of money-grabbing has gamers pretty cranky, as Mark explains:

The main issue is the fact that this extra cost was not advertised anywhere – users were only made aware of the extra cost after purchasing the game.

Sony has promised to make the difference clearer to consumers, but has stopped way short of anything like a commitment to stop the practice. But it’s hardly alone. Apple continues to charge a higher price for music and apps through iTunes for Australians, for no obvious reason other than it can.

Being charged in Australian dollars does have one benefit — you don’t get hit with credit card conversion fees, which are near universal for non-AU-dollar transactions. But some companies manage to double that sting: Microsoft has slugged customers with Singapore conversion charges when they buy Windows Phone 7 apps in Australian dollars.

I suspect these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. What other digital goods deals make you feel ripped off simply for being Australian? Tell us in the comments.

Are Australians Being Charged More For DC Universe Subscriptions? [Kotaku]


  • Australians basically are ripped off, like the UK and Europe, and it’ll continue for many, many years. Media companies know they know they can continue to do this as long as we want the media, which we do. It’s the same for toys, and blu rays etc, they have us over a barrel, and local retailers are not happy and want to stop us importing. And so, round and round the rip off roundabout goes…

      • +1 for Steam as well – not only is charging a premium for digital content absurd, but Steam actually charges us in USD already, so there’s precisely NO exchange-based argument for the difference.

    • To be fair, it’s not Steam/Valve’s fault – it’s the publishers/distributors, and those same insane markups are applied to boxed copies in store. Now, with boxed stuff there may be some argument to be made for cost of shipping, etc, but with digital delivery, it’s just shameless price-fixing.

    • -1 for Steam.
      Personally I really like those opportunities when you can buy games at US dollar rates, either because they haven’t been “localised” (such as Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit for $50) or because of a sale (e.g Steam Summer sale, where localised prices got replaced by the US discount rate for heaps of games).
      Either way it is the publishers that rip us off for requiring price parity to digitally release a game in Aus.

    • I totally agree on Steam BUT I don’t blame Valve. It’s the publishers that jack up the AU price not steam/valve. Perfect example was BF:BC2 which had US pricing right up until a week or two before launch when the AU distro and the publisher asked them to jack up the price… Every single Valve game has had universal pricing. Remember, Valve are the good guys…First company to realise a game licence shouldn’t be platform dependant, hope the others catch on soon.

      PS… Regarding this, any game that uses steamworks and links to your account via retail is fair game for importing. I picked up Civ5 for $35au via a UK retailer and as soon as I installed it linked to my account and updated as normal. If I uninstalled I could redownload it just like any other steam game.

      Hate the game not the player

  • Parallels Desktop for Mac, available on Apple website for $A109.95 or direct from the parallels website for $US79.99 (approx $A81)

    But it is not only digital items. I looked up a book on booko.com.au the other day. It was available from Canada for $A30.42 (including delivery) whereas in Australia it could cost up to $79.95. But what was the book? It was called “Bourke Street Bakery”, a book published in Australia. We are being ripped off everywhere!

  • Adobe really p***** me off. Photoshop CS5 extended is quoted at $999 in the US,but if you are registered in Australia the quoted price is A$1671. A similar discrepancy exists with all Adobe software

  • I just ordered a bunch of electronic gear (components) from an online shop. The price came to US $69. They wouldn’t tell me the shipping costs until after I placed my order, but I figured it couldn’t be bad, because they said they shipped with standard US post, and the package should only weigh a few grams (resistors, LEDs, capacitors, etc).

    Shipping was US $49!

  • I think the disparity in Technet subscriptions is almost criminal. Technet Standard is $337 here in Australia, but in US it’s just $US199 up front, or $US149 for renewal. That’s for a subscription which is electronic delivery only – no physical product involved.

    If only I knew someone in the USA with a US credit card…

    • I lived in the States for a few years, and I still have a KeyBank card which I use from time to time, having stuff sent to my in-laws in Washintgon state.

      I’d be happy to use my KeyBank card to help you (or anyone else!) out however I can.

      The fact that we have the same name is a nicebit of synchronicity, btw.. 🙂


      Oh, if anyone actually wants to take up my offer, hit me up at [email protected]

  • +1 for Steam.

    It’s only some publishers though. Recent example would be 2K selling Civ 5 for $49.95 USD in the US of A and selling the same game for $89.95 USD in Australia. It’s not like then even bothered to convert the currency before ripping us off. Just straight up, you’re in a different country, you have to pay more.

  • Adobe are the worst in my experience. But certainly are not alone in ripping off Aussies.

    If I’m buying the low value (<$200) products.. the pragmatist in me just says "Pay the higher Aust price and suck it up.." but when I'm purchasing Pro products and Suites… it's FAR FAR FAR cheaper for me to purchase from USA via a service like PriceUSA and have the boxed version shipped to me, or the digital download from the USA Adobe store.

    Even with the PriceUSA fees, and freight, I still come out many many $100's of dollars ahead.. for the EXACT SAME set of 1's and 0's that Adobe sell the Aust customers….

    In regards to shipping costs from USA… I find that of the 1/10 vendors who will actually ship outside USA, they either have no idea, or no interest in finding cheap shipping. They usually offer FedEx, UPS, DHL type services which are "cheap" and super efficient, and the normal practive within USA… but the costs go NUTS when using those services to ship to Aust. The service is first rate… you get stuff in a few days… but most times I don't need that service. I'm happy to have it go USPS and take 3-4 weeks. But most don't offer that service 🙁

    eBay sellers from USA that ship internationally often offer USPS though…

    At the end of the day, We are a nation 2/3 the size of California, population wise, and market size wise. We rate low on the radar of most multinational tech companies.

  • I’d be interested to see if we can combat some of the price differences through Australian Fair Trade. I know in Australia it’s illegal to offer the same product or service for different prices to different people. If an online store operates in AU, ie sells to AU, then it should be covered.

    Though it would likely take a class action against a huge player in the market like Apple to get it even looked at I think.

    • The short answer is no. The Aus-US FTA only covers customs/taxes and the like levied by governments, and has nothing to do with private commerce. Steam/Valve can charge whatever they want, or allow publishers to charge whatever they want on Steam.

      I wrote to the Oz trade minister asking about this, and they replied with the above explanation.

      • Sorry @Awnshegh – first day back after the Qld Floods Blues. Didn’t read your message properly.

        You might be right about fair trade – unless they have some loophole via an Oz Valve company being different to its US mother.

      • @Awnshegh, @Jon,

        The Fair Trade act doesn’t really cover that, since it’s available at a single price for all consumers in the Australian market. Price gouging across international markets isn’t covered by domestic laws – the best you could get is a complaint in the WTO, but the chances of something like this being picked up is something like zero to none.

  • I think Apple is one of the big abusers of this principle. Many of their items are marked up by approximately 25%, that’s just too much. I can appreciate hardware in Australia costing around 10% more to cater for GST, but I don’t expect even that for sofware items purchased over the net that are valued under $1000.

  • Second the Adobe comment! Photoshop Elements 9 has a US$99 RRP vs A$135 locally… And that’s for a download so they can’t play the “local shipping and overheads” card.

  • On top of that, the banks double dip if you are able to buy using a foreign currency – first they don’t give you the full exchange rate, then they charge you a conversion fee…


  • Printer ink – even with approximately $90 postage (delievered within 3 days from USA), I still come out on top.

    Pretty much everything these days can be bought online for much less – I only go to shops to see the products or try them on for size, then I head straight for the internet. If postage is still a lot, then I’d be more willing to pay nearly the same for something online then pay a few dollars more at a shop – just to stick it too ’em.

    …and Gerry Harvey and the other geriatrics can s*ck my balls.

  • It’s interesting to note that while people complain about the US to Australian price disparity you never see people complaining how expensive it is to get a suit tailored here compared to Thailand or china.

    The US’s minimum wage is around three times less than ours which is why things are cheaper. All this stuff you buy online on minimum wage? The people in that country can’t actually afford it.

    If you want to have prices similar to the US why don’t you petition the government to lower the minimum wage and see how that goes.

    Australia is the fuckin’ lucky country and you should all do well to remember it.

    • Bloody oath mate! And just in time for Aussie-Aussie-Aussie Day.

      It is un-Australian to even question why we pay a different price for the exact same product (it’s obviously due all those minimum wage programmers out there, not to mention that people in other countries can’t even afford software).

      Even if you entirely missed the point that the discussion is about digital goods, I did enjoy beating my chest along with your broad-sweeping and misinformed tirade.

      But jeez I can’t stand those Yanks with their blind nationalistic pride.

    • @Blake,

      Where is the minimum wage even relevant in this? In the case of digital downloads, the cost of distribution doesn’t factor in that wage. In the cost of electronic goods, chances are it’s being made in China and shipped from there anyway, so that takes the US minimum wage out of the equation.

      We’re getting the same goods from the same sources, but there’s a bigger markup here, and hardly any of it is due to an increased wage bill or higher taxation.

      As for “the lucky country”, you’d do well to find out the origin of the term: http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/articles/luckycountry/

  • We do get ripped off by certain companies (apple). I have been buying all sorts of things online lately with the aussie dollar so stong i bought a book from amazon it only added 60c when converting to australian dollars and even though i paid more for shipping then i did the book it was still cheaper then any australian retailer.

  • @Tom, so you don’t acknowledge *any* value in retailers offering the ability to look at the product first-hand even though you use that service? I don’t want to defend gross overpricing (though most of it comes from the wholesale end, not retail) but buying at the same price online just to “stick it too ’em” seems pointless.

    • @Dhruin, fair point. I do see the value in being able to browse in person but I guess if I know it’s super cheap overseas, then I wouldn’t support the shop in Aus – especially if it’s an international chain -they’re just taking the piss. You may be right in saying my actions are pointless but I’m probably too infuriated to look at it rationally when I find the product is way cheaper elsewhere.

  • No different with MS and windows products. At least a 30% premium (or more) for Windows products purchased in Oz vs USA. Why? Why? Why? Google, hurry with the Chrome OS and cloud application platforms! I love Linux but it’s just not there yet for the average user to be able to ditch MS.

  • I bought myself a Kindle in Australia and most of the way through the buying process, I was redirected to the ‘Australian’ store where I was charged double ($30 U.S. instead of $15 U.S.) postage and it’s going to take about 3-4 times as long to get here (three or four weeks instead of the 3-5 days priority shipping that I would have got for $15 U.S. I’m guessing that if you are sending a Kindle to Aussieland you pay the $15 but if you are an Aussie buying one, you pay double. What a joke. But they don’t care because we keep buying the stuff.

  • I think one of the reasons digital media is marked up so much is because the same distributors are selling to Australian brick and mortar shops who incur much higher costs for stocking the stuff. The retail groups would probably be pretty mad if steam/itunes offered the same products so cheap that it was impossible to compete.
    Of course I know this doesn’t excuse ridiculous gouging practices.

  • Not so much digital media, but cheap plastic stuff churned out in China for ten cents a pop can be two to three times as expensive in Australia as the US – even though Australia is _closer_ to the factories in the first place.

    I’ve bought stuff from American vendors regarded as “high-priced”, had it shipped directly to my door, and even with import duties ended up paying half what I would pay off the shelf locally. If I could order internationally from Wal*Mart, it’d be more like a third the price.

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