CHOICE tips for getting around 'geo-blocks' and beating international price discrimination
CHOICE says consumers can stand up to international companies who slug Australians with higher prices by navigating around so-called ‘geo-blocks’ and accessing cheaper products.
Many companies deploy methods to identify a user’s location via their IP address in order to restrict their access to certain goods and prices, a process known as geo-blocking.1
“We found evidence of international companies treating Australians with contempt by forcing them to pay higher prices for identical goods,” says CHOICE head of campaigns Matt Levey.2
“Smart shoppers can beat these companies at their own game, ramping up competitive pressure by accessing legitimate, cheaper products through unofficial online supply channels,” Mr Levey said.
CHOICE has released a guide on how to access some methods which can bypass online geo-blocks such as using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and alternative Domain Name Systems (DNSs).
There are also services which forward parcels to Australia from surrogate US addresses, allowing Australian consumers to buy from US only online stores, while music fans can access cheaper products by setting up US iTunes accounts.
However, CHOICE says these channels are not without their risks. Product warranties may not be recognised in Australia, and consumers may have the accounts suspended, restricting access to online services they may have already paid for.
“As long as consumers are aware of the risks and do their due-diligence, there is no reason why they cannot pick up a bargain online with confidence,” Mr Levey says.
“It also undermines the virtual walls these companies have built around the Australian market, which in the long term will help bring down prices to a global parity.”
“This is a key message we delivered to the current Federal Parliamentary inquiry into IT pricing, and we hope they will support it in their final report,” Mr Levey says.
Read CHOICE’s tips for ‘Shopping without walls.
Media contact: Matt Levey, CHOICE head of campaigns – 0488 214 066
1. Popular websites such as iTunes and Steam engage in geo-blocking tactics to charge higher prices to Australians. Others such as Netflix and Hulu don’t allow Australians to access their products at all.
2. CHOICE research found that Australians pay approximately 50% more than US consumers for identical digital products including music downloads, PC and console games and computer software and hardware. This research was provided to the current Parliamentary Inquiry into IT pricing – see www.choice.com.au/itpricing