Apple refuses to appear before IT price inquiry

17:00, Jul 29 2012

An Australian parliamentary committee wants to force computer giant Apple to appear before it after members became frustrated with the company's refusal to co-operate.

Hearings into the pricing of software and other IT-related material such as games and music downloads will begin in Sydney tomorrow but neither Apple nor Microsoft will appear.

"Some of the big names in IT have taken local consumers for a ride for years but when legitimate questions are asked about their pricing, they disappear in a flash,'' Labor MP and committee member Ed Husic told Fairfax Media.

"Within our growing digital economy, there are reasonable questions to be answered by major IT companies on their Australian pricing. These companies would never treat US consumers in this way."

New Zealand Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams said she would be watching the Australian review closly in order to decide if a similar inquiry is needed here.

Both Microsoft and Adobe provided submissions to the inquiry. Microsoft will not appear tomorrow but a representative for Adobe will attend. But members of the House of Representatives standing committee on infrastructure and communications have been frustrated with the behaviour of Apple, which has appeared before US congressional hearings.


The company provided the committee with a confidential submission, which means the committee is unable to use the information in its report.

"Apple has made the utterly wrong call, bringing down the shutters and refusing to engage with this inquiry,'' Mr Husic said. "They're making it difficult for the committee to do its work and it's a massive double standard'' because Apple has appeared before US Congressional hearings.

The committee is investigating whether it can force Apple to appear before the inquiry, as is believes the company is failing to respond to legitimate consumer concerns.

A spokeswoman for Apple did not return Fairfax Media's call.

The committee is examining price differences between software and other IT-related products, which often sell in Australia for significantly more than the same products in the US.

A Productivity Commission report into retailing, released last year, said company excuses for the higher pricing, such as Australia being a small market compared with other countries, "in most cases are not persuasive, especially in the case of downloaded music, software and videos, for example, where the costs of delivery to the customer are practically zero and uniform around the world".

In its submission to the committee, Microsoft said its products and services were usually sold through a third party rather than directly to the consumer.

"The Microsoft partner community is an economic ecosystem in its own right," the submission said.

Other factors played a role in pricing, it said, such as labour and rental costs for retailers, Australian-specific regulations, advertising and supply chain costs.

-Sun Herald