We’ve known about the inquiry into the disparity in IT pricing in Australia for some time, ever since the Member for Chifley Ed Husic kickstarted matters. It’s now possible to make a submission to the inquiry, based on its terms of reference, which cover IT hardware, software, games and even ebooks.
But you can’t just say “this stuff’s too expensive” and make a meaningful contribution; the terms of reference for the inquiry are what they’ll look at, and they’re as follows:
Noting the estimated value of the Internet to the Australian economy, and the importance of competitively priced IT hardware and software being made available to business, government and the community, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications is asked to inquire:
(a) Whether a difference in prices exists between IT hardware and software products, including computer games and consoles, e-books and music and videos sold in Australia over the internet of in retail outlets as compared to markets in the US, UK and economics in the Asia-Pacific;
(b) Establish what those differences are;
(c) Determine why those differences exist;
(d) Establish what the impacts of these differences might be on Australian businesses, governments and households; and
(e) Determine what actions might be taken to help address any differences that operate to the disadvantage to Australian consumers.
The release quotes the chair of the inquiry, Nick Champion, as stating that
“Australians are often forced to pay more for IT hardware and software than consumers in overseas markets. The Committee’s inquiry aims to determine the extent of these IT price differences and examine the possibility of limiting their impact on Australian consumers, businesses and governments. The Committee will look into the cost of computer hardware and software, including games, downloaded music, e-books, and professional software, to name a few. The Committee is looking forward to hearing from the companies who set these prices and the consumers and businesses that purchase their products.”
That’s a pretty wide swathe of products — and there’s no guarantee that it’ll lead to actual price drops, given it’s simply looking into the cost arrangements. It’s also rather interesting if you look at the full terms of reference that Stephen Conroy laid down to see that one worrying factor is that:
“…through the course of last year’s Productivity Commission investigation into the retail sector, very few IT vendors took the opportunity to provide some guidance or explanation about their approach to pricing within the Australian market.”
Ouch. Hopefully this inquiry will get them to open up more, although as Husic himself noted in his original pitch, he’s been waiting a considerable time to simply get a response from Apple at all.
If you’re interested in making a submission, you can do so via the House Of Representatives Committees web site, but must do so before the 6th of July. [Inquiry Into IT Pricing]
Image: Cimexus / Flickr