The Australian Government released its report into IT pricing entitled “At what cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax” today. You can read and download the report from the Australian Government Inquiry website here – http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=ic/itpricing/report.htm
A quick summary of the report showed (to no surprise) that Australians pay a hefty price for IT related products when compared with the rest of the world. The inquiry also investigated facotrs, such as wages, cost of living, taxes, market size, exchange rates, and localisation costs.
- We pay an average of 66% more for Microsoft products, 42% more for Adobe products and 51% more for Autodesk products.
- We pay 52% more for music.
- We pay 16% more for ebooks.
- We pay 46% more for hardware.
- And we pay 84% more for games!
The report put forward 10 recommendations. It will be interesting to see whether the Australian Government has the resources to wage this battle and get its way. The points below are taken directly from the report.
- The Committee recommends that the ABS develop a comprehensive program to monitor and report expenditure on IT products, hardware and software, both domestically and overseas, as well as the size and volume of the online retail market.
- Considering the importance of IT products to education, and in the interests of greater transparency in this area, the Committee recommends that the Australian Government, in consultation with Universities Australia and CAUDIT, conduct a comprehensive study of the future IT needs of and costs faced by Australian Universities, in order to provide clearer financial parameters for negotiations.
- The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider a whole-of-government accessible IT procurement policy, to be developed by relevant agencies including AGIMO, and in consultation with relevant stakeholder groups including ACCAN.
- The Committee recommends that the parallel importation restrictions still found in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) be lifted, and that the parallel importation defence in the Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth) be reviewed and broadened to ensure it is effective in allowing the importation of genuine goods.
- The Committee recommends that the Australian Government amend the Copyright Act’s section 10(1) anti-circumvention provisions to clarify and secure consumers’ rights to circumvent technological protection measures that control geographic market segmentation.
- The Committee further recommends that the Australian Government investigate options to educate Australian consumers and businesses as to:
- the extent to which they may circumvent geoblocking mechanisms in order to access cheaper legitimate goods;
- the tools and techniques which they may use to do so; and
- the way in which their rights under the Australian Consumer Law may be affected should they choose to do so.
- The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, in conjunction with relevant agencies, consider the creation of a ‘right of resale’ in relation to digitally distributed content, and clarification of ‘fair use’ rights for consumers, businesses, and educational institutions, including restrictions on vendors’ ability to ‘lock’ digital content into a particular ecosystem.
- The Committee recommends the repeal of section 51(3) of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
- The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider enacting a ban on geoblocking as an option of last resort, should persistent market failure exist in spite of the changes to the Competition and Consumer Act and the Copyright Act recommended in this report.
- That the Australian Government investigate the feasibility of amending the Competition and Consumer Act so that contracts or terms of service which seek to enforce geoblocking are considered void.
There is a very interesting discussion in Chapter 4 regarding copyright, circumvention, compatitions and remedies. If you are involved in the IT industry, this is a must read section.
I’m hoping that we will have a balanced market and pricing parity leading to a win for vendors, businesses and consumers in Australia in the future.