Apple, Microsoft, Adobe Get Summons from Australian Parliament

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | February 11, 2013 5:38 PM EST

Members of Australian parliament have summoned for questioning IT giants Apple, Microsoft and Adobe to explain why their products are sold for much higher in Australia compared to other parts of the globe.

The three companies have been sent summonses to appear at a public hearing in Canberra on 22 March, according to a statement released by the House Committee on Infrastructure and Communications of Australia on Monday.

The summonses was some form of last recourse as the three companies had previously been invited to attend an earlier public session, albeit voluntarily. All however declined the invitation.

"These firms should have cooperated and been prepared to be more open and transparent about their pricing approaches," Labor MP Ed Husic said. "Adobe, Apple and Microsoft are just a few firms that have continually defied the public's call for answers and refused to appear before the IT Pricing Inquiry."

The Australian Parliament wants the three IT giants to explain why they price their products so much higher, as much as 60 per cent, in Australia compared to the US.

"Given the widespread use of IT across businesses and the community, the prices paid for hardware and software can have a major commercial and economic impact," the politician was quoted as saying.

"Getting downward movement on IT prices and easing the bite of price discrimination should be an important micro-economic priority - so I'm looking forward to hearing from these firms about their pricing approaches," he added.

The federal parliamentary inquiry came about after Australian consumer groups such as Choice as well as Australian Communications ConsumerAction Network decried the exorbitant selling prices of the three tech giants.

The House Committee on Infrastructure and Communications was created in May 2012 to investigate the discrepancies between prices for the same products sold to Australia versus those sold overseas.

Apple and Microsoft had earlier argued there are a range of regional factors that impact pricing in the Australian market, including product cost, GST, shipping and freight, local sales taxes, levies, import duties, marketing costs and currency exchange rates.

But with the Australian dollar trading higher than the US dollar, it should mean Australians can purchase US products at lower prices.

Adobe Australia had confirmed receipt of the summons from the committee. 

"Adobe will cooperate with the committee as we have done since the Inquiry began," the Australian quoted an unidentified Adobe Australia spokeswoman as saying.

Apple Australia, meanwhile, refused to comment.

"We welcome the move by the Committee to force these companies to front the Australian public and explain why they think it is okay to charge Australians more," Alan Kirkland, Choice chief executive, said.

"Australians are waking up to the fact that we are being ripped off. We believe it's time that these companies realise this and start pricing fairly in the Australian market."

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