Customs contradicts vendors over IT pricing
Joins Treasury in endorsing 'grey market'
The Australian Information Industry Association’s claim that customs duty contributes to high IT prices in this country has been flatly contradicted by the Australian Customs Service.
Customs, whose submission to the IT price inquiry being conducted by the Australian parliament at the urging of MP Ed Husic has been published here (submission number 88), states that duty does not apply to IT products.
As a signatory to the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement, Customs says, Australia agreed to eliminate tariffs on computers and peripherals, electronic components, software, and telecommunications kit – such duties were eliminated in 1998.
Someone should mention this to the AIIA, which claimed that the “costs associated with product and service sales in this market” include “GST, customs duty and regulatory requirements”.
Customs also noted that there is “no customs duty on goods such as game consoles, iPads and e-readers. Similarly there is no duty on CDs, DVDs and the like.” GST does apply, of course, on imports over $1,000, and each consignment is subject to a $AU50 processing charge.
Customs also emphasized the legality of parallel importation. Rather than the “grey market” label it so often gets, Customs notes that “the parallel importation of genuine trade marked goods is permitted as a way of encouraging the free movement of goods, enhancing competition and providing lower prices for consumers”.
Treasury backs 'grey market'
Customs isn’t the only department to state that parallel importation is good for consumers. The Treasury (submission 85) makes similar comments, stating that “consumers take advantage of parallel imports to avoid high prices” for physical goods, and are likely to “seek ways to reduce the impact of international price discrimination for digital products as well”.
Even the impact of GST isn’t black-and-white, Treasury states: downloads from overseas suppliers “are generally not subject to GST or customs duty” because of the “difficulty of enforcing compliance by non-resident suppliers who do not have a presence in Australia”.
In spite of a stance which might be regarded as more sympathetic to the IT industry than most of the submissions to the inquiry so far, even Treasury notes that “higher prices that cannot be explained by differences in the cost of supplying to Australia are not optimal for Australian consumers or businesses.”
The Register notes that the inquiry doesn’t seem to have heard from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is responsible for our Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations – and is therefore accused by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam of trying to trade away some of the parallel import rights that are so benignly endorsed by Customs and Treasury. ®
Bootnote: While browsing the submission by the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association, El Reg came across this gem: “90 percent of P2P piracy in Australia is infringing”. I just thought I’d share that with you.
90% of P2P is infringing... well MAYBE if we could LEGALLY purchase the damn stuff it wouldn't be. Everything is geolocked, you want to buy an eBook? Not available in your country. Movie? Not available in your country. TV show? Not available in your country. Hell I tried to buy a tablet off Amazon ($300 cheaper!) and got told "nope, can't sell to you, you dirty Australian", but the Hong Kong eBay seller worked just fine...
About the only damn things that you can buy online without hassles are games (barring the few that get banned, but that shouldn't be a problem much longer, cross fingers), and even then depending on the publishers you've got the problem of them tacking on the 50-100% Australian tax that the rest of the article was talking about.
Steam is the worst for it, there are tons of ISPs that provide free Steam mirrors to their customers, at zero cost to Valve... Who I know don't set the prices (Ubisoft, EA I'm looking at you!), but the justification isn't there! Hell the prices are still in USD, so you're still getting bitten on the currency conversion fees!
Most people are perfectly okay with paying for goods, and don't mind mirror differences in price, but when you can't legally purchase something, and those that you can legally purchase are 100-200% more expensive based on a greed-based money grab, they get rightly pissed off and simply pirate it.
There is zero justifiable reason why digital goods and IT products should cost so damn much more in Australia, hell a lot of them are made closer to us then to other markets! And some are even made HERE, PS3 games for example are manufactured in Sydney and are three times the price...
Nice to see parts of the government
working FOR the people who they are supposed to be there to support, for a pleasant change!
Just punch them back
I'm a frequent buyer of games on Steam (i have several hundred bought through their store). In the past i'd use a VPN (in America) to buy the games that had been marked up for Australia to get them at the USA price but lately i've changed tactics.
If the company that produced the game wants to charge me 50-100% more because i'm in Australia i just download it illegally. I do believe in paying companies for their work but my reasoning behind this is that by trying to charge me double they instead get nothing (exactly what greedy people should get). If they want to charge me a fair, standard price i'm happy to pay it.