The chair of the Australian parliamentary committee investigating IT pricing in Australia, Nick Champion, has called out Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe in parliament for "stonewalling" the committee's investigation.
The IT pricing inquiry is currently looking into the reasons why it is perceived that Australians pay more for technology. Research by consumer group Choice estimated that Australians pay, on average, 56 percent more for IT products than customers overseas.
Apple, Adobe, and Microsoft were represented at a public hearing by the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), but have subsequently refused to appear before the committee themselves.
In the House of Representatives this morning, Champion said that this is unacceptable.
"The committee does detect a deep reluctance and resistance on the part of these companies to discuss these issues publicly, or to publicly defend their business models and pricing structures," he said.
"The tactic employed by the industry seems to be to give either little or limited cooperation to the committee."
He said that other companies are frequently brought before committees to detail commercial practices, highlighting the 1999 retail sector inquiry, in which supermarket giant Woolworths appeared before the inquiry twice.
"If it is good enough for an Australian company like Woolworths to give public testimony, it should be good enough for Apple and others to appear and do the same," he said.
"It is not good enough for the industry to simply stonewall the inquiry, or, for that matter, ignore interested consumers who have a legitimate public interest in IT pricing."
Adobe had offered to make a public appearance before the committee, he said, but only if other IT companies would appear at the same time.
Champion said that the IT companies' reluctance to appear public has left the committee with the "invidious choice" of either compelling Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe to appear, or for the committee to report without evidence from these companies.
"It would be far better for companies to defend their business model and pricing structure in public before the committee," he said.
Deputy chair Paul Neville said that the companies are engaged in "obstruction, avoidance, and evasion," and that issuing the tech giants with a subpoena to appear would be the "ultimate sanction."
"We need to send out a signal that we are not going to accept [it], and we expect a better standard of conduct for the industry," he said.
The IT committee is next due to hold a public hearing on Wednesday, but the committee has not yet announced who will be providing evidence at this hearing.