If you’ve ever been to Australia or at least heard of it, you’re probably familiar with the jokes that South Africans emigrate there because it’s so similar. But that’s probably not applicable for the high prices the country and its citizens are currently paying for software, some hardware and many games. Australia’s parliament has launched an official court order, headed by Labour MP Ed Husic, to ask companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Apple and various game publishers and distributors why things are much more expensive compared to markets like America when their exchange rate is nearly identical.

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As an example, which the Aussie parliament is tabling as some of the things that need to be explained, is why Microsoft Office is 34 percent more expensive, why they pay about 232 percent more for digitally-distributed PC games than Americans, 73 percent more for iTunes purchases and 41 percent more for most computer products. The Consumer group watchdog, Choice, claims it would be more economical to employ someone for 46 hours at $21.30 per hour, provide them with round-trip airfare to the U.S. and have them purchase a particular Microsoft-made enterprise software package rather than buying it locally for $8,939 in Australia and then have them repeat the process once more.

Gee, welcome to the club. We’ve been overpaying for hardware and hit with heavy import taxes and customs clearance for years, although thankfully our software prices seem to be more in line with what the rest of the world is getting. However it does beg the question as to why Australia would be seeing higher prices for software available online through various vendors like Steam because, as you well know, digital distribution cuts out costly supply chains, shipping to various locations as well as costly import taxes, with the products always available with almost nonexistent stock issues.

Why any company would charge more for the downloadable version of their software is a mystery to me. I can understand it from Microsoft’s point of view because when I was attending a local Office 2010 launch, the rep I spoke to said that their online version was slightly pricier because Microsoft prefers its retail channel partners to sell its wares, as there’s a bigger chance to upsell more stuff that the client might or will need in future, as well as not directly competing with their customers (which they’re totally doing now with Surface and Office 365, but I digress). I understand that packaging and shipping becomes a relatively minor expense when you’re doing it in bulk, but shouldn’t those savings be passed onto consumers?

The companies subpoenaed will be required to present themselves in court in the capital of Canberra on March 22nd. The rest of the tech world will be keeping an eye out then as its expected that there might be many cans of worms to open.

Source: Reuters

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