I never know what to make of this, prices here always seem higher, but it's difficult to nail down.
Tech giants Apple and Microsoft, among others, have been ordered to attend a parliamentary inquiry into allegations of price gouging against Australian customers.
Apple, Microsoft and Adobe each received a summons from the committee last Thursday, Labor MP Ed Husic said.
The committee is investigating the impact of IT prices on Australian consumers. It has said Australians pay more than consumers in other countries for hardware and software.
The managing directors of all three companies, including Apple’s rarely seen local chief Tony King, are expected to attend the hearing in Canberra on March 22.
“This is the most serious step that a parliamentary committee can take,” Mr Husic said. “There is a massive reputational risk these companies are confronted with right now, so they shouldn’t send the wrong message by defying parliament.”
All three companies were previously invited to attend earlier public sessions voluntarily but declined.
Apple has previously requested and been granted an off-record hearing behind closed doors.
Adobe and Microsoft have provided statements and submissions to the inquiry, and through an industry body have provided extra materials.
But Mr Husic said he expected the attendances to be both individual and open to the public.
Choice chief executive Alan Kirkland welcomed the move and said it came after months of belligerence.
“It’s hard to find a precedence for [the summoning] but I can absolutely understand why the committee has taken this action,” Mr Kirkland said. “The major companies have done everything they can to avoid turning up and answering questions.”
Mr Kirkland said his organisation had found numerous examples of price gouging by overseas technology companies even though products were now being downloaded over the internet instead of shipped in boxes.
“If you go to Apple’s iTunes and buy Macklemore’s song Same Love, which is number two in the Australian charts, it’s 69¢ in the US and over $2 in Australia,” he said.
“[And] we found it cost $5795 more to buy Microsoft’s Visual Studio software in Australia compared with the US. These are downloaded products with no Australian labour involved and no local distribution costs – it’s simply a matter of where the computer server thinks you’re coming from.”
Another issue dogging multinational tech companies is the amount of local taxes they pay.
Governments, including in Australia and Britain, have flagged plans to combat tax minimisation by Apple, Google and other companies that transfer their profits to countries such as Ireland and the Netherlands, which have much lower company tax rates.