Australia's Parliament has summoned representatives of Apple, Microsoft and Adobe Systems to explain the higher prices of music, computer games, movies, e-books and software in the country compared to the U.S.
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The album regularly costs A$22.99 (S23.87) when purchased from the Australian iTunes store which costs only $15.99 in the U.S. However, Rihanna has also released a Diamonds Executive Platinum Box version of the album with a hefty price tag of $250.
Besides Rihanna's album, Bruno Mars's Unorthodox Jukebox album is more expensive by 42 per cent in Australia.
For software, the Parliament also wants to know the reason why Microsoft's Office Professional 2013 package has a price tag of A$599 in Australia versus the $399.99 price tag in the U.S.
The Parliament probe is the result of a prolonged campaign by Labor backbencher Ed Husic who charged some IT companies of ripping off Aussie consumers. Nick Champion, chairman of the federal Parliamentary committee, said Aussies are charged 50 per cent more in the form of a tax.
The three firms initially snubbed the committee summons, but were warned they could be cited for contempt of Parliament which could include fines and prison terms.
Apple was scheduled at 9:30 a.m., Adobe at 11:30 a.m. and Microsoft at 1 p.m.
In a filing to the committee, Microsoft explained the price difference to sales tax, different labour and rental costs, marketing spending and decisions of third-party resellers. It also cited the strong Australian currency as another reason behind the higher pricing.
Tony King, Apple's vice president for Australia and New Zealand, blamed the owners of the intellectual properties such as songs, movies and TV shows sold at its iTunes Store in Asia-Pacific.
He disclosed that content owners charge different costs for licensing fees to distribute their intellectual property from region to region. He added the costs in Australia are higher.
"Many rights today, in the digital ages, are still by a territory-to-territory or market-to-market basis. Very few rights are truly global and that creates confusion for the customer," ZDNet quoted Mr King.
Mr King said the Australian government should instead talk to record labels and studios that own the digital content about the pricing issue.
"We would love to see lower content prices for consumers in Australia. It should drive use of our products in the Australian market, and that is within our best interest to see take place," he added.
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