Govt unlikely to act on IT pricing before election

 

Husic says movement will be hard.

 

The Government is unlikely to have enough time to implement recommendations from a report into local IT price discrepancies before the upcoming federal election, according to the MP who instigated the parliamentary inquiry.

Parliamentary secretary for Broadband Ed Husic said by all accounts it would be “really hard” for the Government to make any movement on the report's ten recommendations before a new federal government is elected.

“Clearly we’re in the lead up to election and that’ll happen in a short period of time. It’d be hard to imagine that the Government would be in a position to respond before then,” he told iTnews.

A Coalition spokesperson did not respond by the time of publication to questions on its plans for the report's recommendations.

The parliamentary committee investigating whether Australians are being charged an “Australia Tax” for technology hardware and software released its findings, revealing a local average markup of around 50 percent on such products.

The tabling of the report marked the end of a year-long investigation into the issue, which saw the summonsing of tech giants Apple, Adobe and Microsoft.

The three vendors were forced to attend hearings after initially refusing to publicly appear. Their testimony included Microsoft Australia managing director Pip Marlow admitting the software giant was charging what Australians could bear, Apple passing the buck to its US parent, and Adobe blaming boxed product and repeatedly promoting its cloud-based products.

The committee acknowledged that despite Australian-specific factors making it a high-cost environment for IT vendors — such as population spread and size, higher distribution, wage and occupancy costs — in many instances the higher costs could not explain the price differences in IT products, especially those delivered via the internet. 

Husic said the real value for the inquiry was that it gave consumers an opportunity to respond to industry claims that companies were only charging the prices consumers were willing to pay. 

“Now consumers have been able to send a different view. It empowers consumers and gave them a voice when they weren’t being listened to,” he said.

Husic declined to comment on specific recommendations before the report had been looked at fully. 

“We’ve only just got the report in the last day or so. We need time to consider those recommendations and then respond appropriately. We’re not going to rush it.

“It’s given us a lot of think about and importantly it’s signalled to the industry that these issues can’t be swept under the carpet."

Husic said the committee had hoped the industry could address the price issue itself rather than moving to a formal government response. 

“But where price discrimination exists it’s a fairly solid indicator that competition doesn’t. We need to find ways to make the market more competitive, through some of the formal recommendations put forward by the committee," he said.

The committee made ten recommendations which spanned legislative changes to the Copyright, Trade Marks and Competition and Consumer Acts around geblocking, education for consumers and businesses on geoblocking, and an Australia Bureau of Statistics monitoring and reporting program for IT products and markets. Click through for the full list of recommendations.

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