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IT price inquiry chair threatens to throw book at Aus vendors

‘Obstruction, avoidance and evasion’

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Major IT vendors are trying the patience of both sides of politics, with both the chair and deputy chair of the parliamentary IT price inquiry complaining that vendors are hiding behind their union lobbying organisation rather than dealing directly with the inquiry.

The chair (Labor’s Nick Champion) and deputy (Paul Neville of the LNP) told federal parliament yesterday that vendors’ attitudes to the inquiry have reached the point where the inquiry might have to issue subpoenas.

A decision on subpeonas could be made as soon as today.

While some submissions have been made, and the Australian Information Industry Association has appeared once, vendors are reluctant to appear in public to explain themselves (in spite of having probably the largest PowerPoint power user to staff ratios of any industry sector in Australia).

Microsoft was commended for being the most co-operative vendor (it has made a public submission along with two supplementaries – full submission list here).

Telling parliament the industry was “stonewalling” the inquiry, Champion said the industry’s co-operation had been “qualified and sporadic”. Even Microsoft has declined to appear before the inquiry in a public hearing.

The inquiry was announced in May, following growing discontent in Australia at the gravity-defying price practises from international vendors. In some cases, as has been noted in some submissions to the inquiry, the differential between Australian retail price and US street price is sufficient to justify an air ticket across the Pacific and still leave the buyer with spare change.

The Australian Consumers' Association has asked the government to consider legal protection for Australians who circumvent geo-blocking to exercise their right to buy products offshore. ®

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