In 2012, when CHOICE looked into pricing for more than 200 software and hardware products, we found that Australians are paying about 50% more than consumers in the United States. It's become colloquially known as the "Australia tax".
Adobe, Microsoft and Apple were later forced to appear before a federal parliamentary inquiry into IT pricing to explain why Australians pay more. The technology giants offered a raft of reasons but, according to our research, most of their claims don't stack up.
Here are eight facts we'd like you to know about IT pricing.
1. Australians are paying more for technology goods
On average, Australians are paying 37% more for PC games, 26% more for software, 52% more for iTunes downloads and 28% more for computer hardware than our US counterparts, and that doesn't even include GST.
2. High retail rents in Australia aren't a valid excuse
Retail rents are undoubtedly high in Australia, but rental costs have very little impact on a company's overall revenue. In 2011, JB Hi-Fi spent just 3.88% of its revenue on "occupancy expenses", and the high price difference also applies to online-only companies, which have no shopfront.
3. Australian labour costs are not 'too high'
Tech companies complain that labour costs in Australia are too high and often point to our supposedly "high" minimum wage. But research from the Australian Government's independent research and advisory body, the Productivity Commission, has shown US and Australian retail wages to be more or less the same. Australian retail staff are generally paid the award wage, whereas American staff often receive commissions in addition to their minimum wage.
4. Australian warranties aren't 'too demanding'
Australian consumers are legally protected by warranties on goods and services, however our laws aren't really so different to those that exist in many US states. It's also a fairly self-defeating argument - by complaining about warranties, tech companies are essentially implying that their products are of bad quality, and aren't likely to last very long.
5. Our taxes aren't too high
While prices on most American websites don't include their sales tax, Australian prices include a 10% GST. But can a 50% difference in prices, as our research has found in some cases, really be explained by a 10% tax?
6. The 'copyright defence' doesn't cut it
Apple argues that iTunes prices are set by the copyright holders. If movie studios and record companies are determining the high prices Australians pay for their copyrighted works, we'd like them to come clean about that.
7. Geo-blocking is a kind of trade barrier
Tech companies geo-block, which means they either make products that are deliberately incompatible with a player Aussies are likely to have, or won't let you access the products at all. Geo-blocking works like a trade barrier preventing goods from flowing freely across borders, and is entirely controlled by private companies to maximise their own profit.
We've prepared a handy guide to getting around geo-blocking.
8. You can help us end IT price discrimination by becoming a campaign supporter
CHOICE is working on a number of important campaigns including ending price discrimination and geo-blocking. You can get involved by signing up to be a campaign supporter.