Apple, Microsoft may be forced to reveal internal documents

The Australian Parliament may force Apple, Microsoft and Adobe to reveal internal documents and emails as part of an inquiry into IT pricing disparity in Australia.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The parliamentary committee investigating IT pricing disparity in Australia may look to force Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, and the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) to reveal documents used in creating their submissions to the inquiry, as the three tech giants have continued to resist appearing before the committee.

The IT pricing inquiry is currently looking into the reasons 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, Microsoft, and Adobe contributed a joint submission to the inquiry by AIIA, and while Apple was granted a closed-door meeting with the committee, all companies have subsequently refused to appear publicly before it.

Earlier this week, committee member Ed Husic, who has spearheaded the inquiry, told ZDNet that the committee had written to the three companies, seeking to subpoena them to force them to appear before the committee. He said today that he has subsequently discovered that the committee also has the power to force the companies to hand over documents to the inquiry.

"Those powers have existed for quite some time, they have just never really needed to be exercised, because usually, you have a lot more cooperation in the course of an inquiry," he told ZDNet. "It is quite staggering that we've gotten to this point, because most companies would have, by this stage, met and answered questions, and dealt with issues and taken on a much more cooperative approach."

Husic said that he will seek for the committee to obtain documents and emails between the AIIA and the major players created in the course of preparing the joint submission to the committee. He said part of the difficulty was that the AIIA had told the committee at the public hearing that it couldn't answer questions about specific members, and the members said that they would not answer specific questions, because the AIIA was speaking on their behalf.

"We might as well see the documents that were exchanged between the two of them, and get a better sense of where things are at and hopefully get answers to some of our questions," he said.

"We're at a loss to know exactly what their position is, because they have been so evasive to this point."

Today, the committee will hear from the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) on the breakdown of how the revenue from music sales is split up between artists, record labels, and distributors, such as Apple. Microsoft, Adobe, and Apple were asked to appear before the hearing today, but did not respond to the committee's request.

The news comes just before a Digital Economy forum, which is to be held today at the University of New South Wales; Prime Minister Julia Gillard will be hosting the forum and will be joined by the CEO of the AIIA, along with the Virgin Australia CEO, PayPal's vice president, as well as the CEOs of Vodafone Hutchison Australia, Optus, Australia Post, and Atlassian, and a number of executives from Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Telstra, IBM, Cisco, and eBay.

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