01.Shopping without walls
Geo-blocking prevents shoppers in some countries from accessing cheaper prices overseas through Internet Service Provider (ISP) restrictions.
We look at how international companies such as Amazon, Apple and Microsoft conduct geo-blocking, and offer some tips to circumvent the price discrimination.
What is geo-blocking?
The internet is a borderless
world – news, shopping and
social interaction with people
from all over the world is at
our fingertips. But some online retailers
haven’t yet embraced this fact, relying
instead on copyright and licensing
restrictions to vary prices around the
world – what’s known as “geo-blocking”.
Restricting access to content based on geographic location is a popular strategy used by multinational tech giants so they can set different prices in different regions of the globe. The frustrating reality of geo-blocking is common for Australian consumers, who are often charged hefty mark-ups on products from companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, based on their IP address.
While Amazon, Apple and Microsoft
are among the main culprits, streaming
services such as Netflix and Hulu also
divide the globe into random segments,
only to grant access to those with a
certain IP address (the numerical
address that identifies your computer).
in June this year
for a parliamentary
inquiry into IT price
based on online prices of
more than 200 products,
consumers pay an
average of 50% more
for PC games, 34%
more for software,
52% more for
iTunes music, 41%
more for computer
hardware and a huge
88% more for Wii games
than our US counterparts.
Although these prices don’t take
into account the average 9.6% US sales
tax (iTunes prices also don’t include
Australian GST), the mark-up remains
Fortunately for Australian consumers
there are other options that allow you to
navigate your way
boundaries to access
more content and
– see right.
For more information about shopping online, see Networking and internet.
Is it legal?
The legality of
is a grey
area. Some copyright
experts claim those
who promote devices
or programs that
to infringe copyright
are breaking the law.
believes consumers who
circumvent measures used to
protect copyrighted content should be
exempt from what could be construed
as a breach of copyright simply because
they’re accessing products and services
that are being provided knowingly and
willingly by the copyright holder.
It is legal to use a virtual private
network (VPN) to protect
your online transactions from hackers,
and there’s little definitive evidence as
to whether other uses of a VPN breach
It’s also important to note that
circumventing geo-blocks may breach
the terms and conditions of the company
you’re buying from, and if discovered,
your account could be cancelled, losing
credit and access to your downloads.
According to the ACCC, your rights
when dealing with overseas-based
companies to buy products may not
be protected by Australian law. While
some companies, such as Apple, have
international warranties, others, such
as Canon and Nintendo, say they refuse
to recognise products purchased
internationally under domestic