No results yet, but it looks like we are heading in the right direction.
Apple – “It’s not us. We didn’t do it. Blame the record labels and film distributors.”
Adobe – “Australian business is more expensive to run. Try using our cloud products. We personalise our software for Australia”
Microsoft – “People seem happy to pay our Australian prices. It’s the consumers’ fault.”
Yes, I am paraphrasing here but you get the point.
The enquiry did seem uncomfortable at a few points for both sides but at the end of the day the Australian heads for each respective company seemed to have an answer (not many of them good) for every prickly question pointed at them.
First up was Apple. Overall I am not completely outraged by Apple’s response. Hardware costs are pretty close in most cases for Hardware and accessories sold in the US and Australia. The big difference is in itunes where Apple states that the pricing differences are due to tax differences and differences in copyright fees charged by the copyright holders who still seem to trade on the old business model where different countries pay different rates. Next stop for ASIC is to drag these companies before the hearing for a “please explain”.
Adobe’s approach seemed to be more slimy by offering the cloud based (online) services as a replacement to the products that cost so much compared to the US product it is cheaper to FLY from Sydney to LA and buy the American product off the shelves than from an Australian store. Even then the cloud based services are still more expensive by comparison than the cloud services available to American consumers. Overall, not happy and I think this will give many potential consumers more reason to obtain overpriced Adobe products by illegal means just to spite the company that seems to think it is OK to gouge Australian consumers because they think they can.
The clanger of the day for me however came from Microsoft who went for the “Blame the customer” approach.
“If we price our products too high, our customers will vote with their wallets.” said Pip Marlow, Microsoft Australia’s MD who also seemed to think that prices these days are more competitive than ever. Yes, more competitive than the bad old days when the price difference was so insane it was like living on another planet but we are still paying more for digital goods where there is no substantial reason that I can find that justifies such a big hike in pricing. Still to front up with the “vote with your wallet” approach is so infuriating I might actually consider voting not only with my wallet but with a US issued credit card and a VPN service to let Microsoft Australia know which store I prefer to buy my MS products from.
I plan to cover VPN services very soon so we can all send a message to Microsoft Australia and vote with our wallets.
It is going to be a long road but I hope we can expect to eventually see some results with even DFAT looking into the e-commerce chapter of the Trans Pacific Partnership to see if this falls under their jurisdiction. Government departments are finally waking up to this and we may get to see some more companies squirm under the spotlight.