Minister attacks Apple on Australia tax

Summary:Apple needs to "do the right thing" by its Australian customers and better price its new iPhone and other products for the local market, according to NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts.

Apple needs to "do the right thing" by its Australian customers and better price its new iPhone and other products for the local market, according to NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts.

Consumers were getting "short shrift" when it came to the cost of Apple products, given the Australian dollar's recent strength against the US currency, he said.

The minister used the launch of the iPhone 4S to call on the tech giant to reconsider pricing across its range, or face a potential backlash from its Australian customers.

"Local consumers are savvy and I expect many previously loyal Apple fans would be considering the increasing number of quality alternatives when looking to buy smartphones, tablet computers and digital downloads," Roberts said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Lets hope the new iPhone comes with an up-to-date currency converter."

Roberts also accused Apple of using technology to restrict choices in digital media.

He said the company was going against the tide of online retailing, which had created a "free trade" in more traditional media such as books, CDs and DVDs.

"In order to register for an overseas-based site offering digital downloads, customers need an address and credit card issued in that country," he said.

"These measures effectively restrict consumer options and enable companies such as Apple to charge Australians."

Australian fans of country singer Dolly Parton, for example, would have to spend up to 50 per cent more than Americans if they wanted to buy her back-catalogue on Apple's iTunes, Roberts said.

"With digital downloads, cost considerations such as transport and rent neither explain nor justify the price difference."

Apple isn't the only technology company that slugs Australia with the so-called "Australia tax", asking more for the same products. In fact, Apple actually recently reduced the price of apps in its Australian app store.

The prices for Adobe products have been called out for being markedly different, with Adobe previously saying that the variability was due to the costs of doing business in different regions. In Australia, the company said, it did the majority of its business through retail and licensing channels.

Roberts has also not been the only voice calling for a change to this state of affairs. Labor MP Ed Husic has often spoken in parliament about price differences and has also put out feelers for a meeting with Apple's Australian managing director Tony King.

The Productivity Commission has also weighed in against Australians paying more, saying that arguments about Australia's market size don't always cut the mustard. "These arguments in most cases are not persuasive, especially in the case of downloaded music, software and videos, for example, where the costs of delivery to the customer are practically zero and uniform around the world," it said.

Topics: Apple, Apps, Government, Government : AU, Mobility

About

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for t... Full Bio

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