Federal Labor MP and champion of the parliamentary committe investigating IT pricing, Ed Husic is continuing to taunt the tech industry by suggesting the local subsidiaries of global technology vendors should be subpoenaed to explain themselves.
Husic was instrumental in pursuading the Australian Government to look into the issue of price gouging in Australia, after claiming local buyers were being forced to spend up to 80 percent more for products than their counterparts in the US and elsewhere.
In May the federal government launched an investigation into the issue, which has since drawn 91 submissions, three private submissions from the likes of Apple, as well as a public hearing which heard channel organisations blamed for local price hikes.
Husic, addressing the Global Access Partner’s Annual Growth Summit in Parliament House on Friday, said subpoenaing IT vendors to provide greater detail about local price hikes was a definitie option.
The list of submissions to the inquiry is dominated mainly by consumers. Vendors form a small part of those participating, with Microsoft and Adobe the only two to have made a public submission. Other vendors are represented by the industry group Australian Information Industry Association.
Apple requested a private, closed-door hearing with the committee. The inquiry has so far held one public hearing in July, which neither Apple, Microsoft or Adobe publicly fronted. Another hearing is scheduled to take place in Canberra tomorrow.
In his speech, Husic slammed IT vendors as having a total disregard for their customers, but said they would be offered one more chance to contribute openly to the public discussion.
Husic revealed the committee had received evidence to back up his claims that Australians paid 60-80 percent more for hardware and software locally. He said the big price discrepancies on software were especially difficult to explain.
"The issue with software is baffling because, with downloads, things such as shipping and handling costs are almost negligible," he said.
He took aim specifically at the Australian Industry Group for claiming normal market forces would fix the problem.
"The AI Group gave the nod to the usual litany of underpinning factors driving up costs: rents, labour, taxes, warranties, environmental regulation. Mind you, no quantitative data was presented to explain price differences of between 60 per cent and 80 per cent, especially for software downloads," Husic said.
"It’s even harder to get this data when the major vendors refuse to engage with the inquiry, treating the Parliament with contempt."
Tomorrow's hearing will be held late afternoon in Parliament House in Canberra. The peak body representing local consumers, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), as well as ANU professor and intellectual property researcher Dr Matthew Rimmer are expected to front the hearing.
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Issue: 315 | May 2013
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