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Australian government kicks off IT price discrimination inquiry

‘Oz tax’ under scrutiny

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The infamous practice of adding a price premium to tech products imported into Australia is now under the scrutiny of a parliamentary committee, with submissions open until 6 July, 2012.

If vendors bother to respond at all – in his letter establishing the inquiry, Senator Stephen Conroy notes (PDF) that the tech sector was largely absent from last year’s Productivity Commission into the Australian retail sector – El Reg would expect a re-hash of the kinds of self-serving pseudo-economics that’s generally trotted out to justify price discrimination.

As Conroy’s letter states, price differentials have “become more noticeable with the appreciation of the Australian dollar relative to the US currency and may lead to consumers purchasing hardware or software from overseas suppliers.”

The terms of reference ask the House of Representatives’ Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications to examine:

(a) Whether a difference in prices exists between IT hardware and software products, including computer games and consoles, e-books and music and videos sold in Australia over the internet or in retail outlets as compared to markets in the US, UK and economies in the Asia-Pacific

(b) Establish what those differences are

(c) Determine why those differences exist

(d) Establish what the impacts of these differences might be on Australian businesses, governments and households

(e) Determine what actions might be taken to help address any differences that operate to the disadvantage to Australian consumers

The launch of the inquiry is a win for MP Ed Husic, who has spent a year calling for government action on the issue.

Submissions can be made via the inquiry’s Website. A reporting date has not yet been set. ®

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