Last July, the government IT Pricing Inquiry offered up a series of recommendations on how the very evident price disparities for technology services and products in Australia compared to other countries might be addressed. Is there any chance any of those recommendations might ever be implemented? The consensus answer, even from those in favour of the changes, seems to be "no".
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More than a year after it started accepting public submissions, the federal government's IT pricing inquiry has tabled its recommendations, which range from how the government should spend its own money on IT to whether geoblocking should be made illegal. The short version? The recommendations are weak and pointless and won't make any practical difference.
Apple is the first big name off the rank to appear before the IT pricing inquiry in Federal Parliament today. Apple's local MD Tony King blames the pricing difference on what Apple gets charged by record companies, but he's not comfortable with acknowledging Apple's dominant role in music and doesn't seem to want to do anything about it.
After the Australian government issued legal notices to Adobe, Apple and Microsoft yesterday to quiz them over gouging Australians, one of the major vendors in question has chosen to surrender. According to a statement, Adobe will drop some prices in Australia after years of gouging.
One of the big disappointments of last year's IT pricing inquiry was that Adobe, Apple and Microsoft refused to make detailed submissions discussing their sometimes questionable pricing tactics. That's no longer an option: all three have been subpoenaed to appear before the ongoing Federal government inquiry.
It's an appealing image: Apple, Adobe and Microsoft forced to front up to a parliamentary committee and explain why they overcharge Australians. But even if those organisations end up being subpoenaed and forced to testify before the IT Pricing Inquiry, we shouldn't assume that means anything will be learned or anything will be changed.
Australians are often blocked from purchasing cheaper software, music and movies from overseas because the sites selling those products won't accept an Australian credit card. One possible solution to that would be to make it illegal to block access to cheaper prices for Australians, ensuring we could access better-priced overseas alternatives. That sounds like a clever solution, but once again it's extremely unlikely to happen.
Discussions about tech pricing make everyone angry, but rarely solve anything. Software and hardware vendors are kidding themselves if they think their flimsy justifications for gouging Australian consumers will stand up to in-depth scrutiny. Consumers are kidding themselves if they think that this is a universal phenomenon. And we're all kidding ourselves if we think that the current parliamentary inquiry will have any real effect on the issue.
The government inquiry into the price of tech products in Australia began public hearings today in Sydney. One argument we're bound to hear from vendors trying to justify the 'Australia tax' is that local taxes and expenses force higher prices to be charged here than elsewhere. Those arguments seem hard to swallow in an industry where Apple can make a 50 per cent margin on every phone it sells.