What seems like ages ago, we had a government enquiry into the Australia Tax
Turns out it is real and the Australian Government is not happy with it. In some cases it has been demonstrated that consumers get slugged up to twice the price in Australia than others do in the US to the point where it is actually economically feasible to fly return from Sydney to Los Angeles to purchase software off the shelf in the US. The report findings confirm that Australian consumers are in some cases at a serious disadvantage when it comes to purchasing not only physical goods but also digital goods and services where freight or localisation is not a factor.
Some Australian consumers claim that they are treated as second class citizens through what has been describes as discriminatory pricing and even the wholesale industry is hamstrung in some cases where supply agreements stipulate that goods to be retailed in Australia must be sourced through appointed Australian distribution channels.
The report has tabled recommendations that include:
- Repealing parallel importation restrictions in Australian Copyright Act 1968.
- Allowing local retailers to obtain supply from channels outside of existing Australian distribution networks.
- Amendments to the Australian Copyright Act section 10(1) which would allow consumers to circumvent geoblocking.
- Educating the Australian public on how to circumvent geoblocking.
- Further clarification in the term of “Fair Use” and the creation of the Rights to Resale for digital goods which could restrict content creators from locking that media to a particular platform. If it is available in Australia on device X it should also be available on device Y.
- Investigating the amendment of the Competition and Consumer Act to render contracts or terms of service that enforce and allow geoblocking void.
There is a concern that the companies affected by these recommendations would pull their products from the Australian market in protest but that would only impact those that still rely on physical goods and I would not expect to see any concern from consumers of digital goods.
All in all, this is a step in the right direction. The Australian Government is actually stepping up for Australian consumers and reading the riot act to the companies engaged in discriminatory pricing where there is no reason to do so.
To read one of the many news reports on this story. Have a look at ABC’s report here.