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Australian gaming, tech and software consumers selecting to buy from local online stores vs offshore etailers are paying up to 91 percent for the pleasure, according to consumers watchdog Choice.

Choice has revealed in a submission to the Productivity Commission’s retail inquiry, that pricing disparities between many items sold in Australian estores and those purchased online from overseas are significant and often unjustified.

The group found that the cost of the top 12 music albums on the Australian iTunes store cost, on average, 73 percent more than the US iTunes store (even though the Australian dollar is now worth more than the peso greenback. The price for video game Portal 2 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 was 91 percent more from a major Australian online retailer than from an overseas e-tailer based in Asia.

“There is no reason why Australians should pay more than consumers in comparable countries for digitally delivered items like software,” Choice director of communications, Christopher Zinn said.

Choice has weighed in on the debate on whether to introduce GST on online purchases under $1,000, arguing against the change. Dominant retailers, like Harvey Norman, threatened by international online retail competition have been agitating for the change.

Choice claims that it is a pipe dream for local retailers to think the imposition of a GST on overseas purchases will suddenly make the threat go away.

“The pressure from overseas online competition is a much needed wake up for Australian retailers to be more competitive. We need to move beyond a complacent culture of high prices, high margins and poor service,” Zinn argues.

Zinn adds that companies are employing blocking methods such as banning international IP addresses and credit card numbers as well as pushing consumers to ‘local’ websites, in order to thwart consumer access to international bargains.

“We are challenging global corporations to drop the artificial technological barriers used to block competitive prices online, such as those affecting software and music downloads,” he said. ®

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