IT giants forced to front Aussie pricing inquiry

ASHER MOSES
Last updated 16:34 11/02/2013

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IT giants including Apple, Microsoft and Adobe will become the first companies to be forced to appear before a federal parliamentary inquiry after they frustrated efforts to get to the bottom of high prices paid by Australians for tech products.

The House Committee on Infrastructure and Communications has summonsed the three companies for a public hearing on March 22, which means they will be compelled to appear.

Nick Champion, chair of the IT pricing inquiry, has previously told parliament that the companies had "stonewalled" the inquiry, either hiding behind their industry association, which failed to answer key questions, or in the case of Apple only agreeing to give evidence confidentially.

Labor MP Ed Husic said compelling the companies to appear was an "important move" but one "we shouldn't have to take".

"These firms should have cooperated and been prepared to be more open and transparent about their pricing approaches," said Husic.

"In what's probably the first time anywhere in the world, these IT firms are now being called by the Australian Parliament to explain why they price their products so much higher in Australia compared to the US."

The IT pricing inquiry has been running since last July. Consumer group Choice provided evidence showing Australians pay around 50 per cent more than US consumers for identical music, software, games and hardware.

Choice found that for one Microsoft software development product you could fly to Los Angeles return to buy the software and still save thousands of dollars.

"We welcome the move by the committee to force these companies to front the Australian public and explain why they think it is okay to charge Australians more," said Choice CEO Alan Kirkland.

"Australians are waking up to the fact that we are being ripped off. We believe it's time that these companies realise this and start pricing fairly in the Australian market."

Adobe said it would cooperate with the committee while Apple declined to comment. Microsoft has not yet responded to a request for comment.

New Zealand Communications Minister Amy Adams says she plans to keep an eye on a parliamentary investigation ordered by her Australian counterpart Stephen Conroy.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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