IT price probe to 'name and shame' gougers

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IT price probe to 'name and shame' gougers
Parliament House

Industry ducking the issue, committee claims.

A Parliamentary inquiry investigating local IT software and hardware prices has threatened to "name and shame" those vendors who deliberately gouge Australian consumers and enterprises.

The inquiry, the result of a year-long campaign by Labor backbencher Ed Husic, has been asked by communications minister Stephen Conroy to investigate whether a price difference exists between IT hardware and software bought in Australia, versus those sold in the US, UK and Asia Pacific.

It would note the "importance of competitively priced IT hardware and software being made available to business, government and the community" and, if a price difference is deemed to exist, determine what might be done to rectify the issue.

The establishment of the inquiry sparks the beginning of formal public consultation on the issue, allowing US vendors including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Adobe to explain why and how they set product prices for Australia.

Husic told iTnews that industry response to the issue thus far had been "non-existent".

"The public was really interested in the issue, [IT] businesses quiet and from my point of view I took the position that if they were not willing to speak publicly and engage we needed to find a mechanism to do it. This Inquiry is the way," Husic said.

While the committee has only powers to inquire and recommend actions to Parliament, committee deputy chair Paul Neville said the inquiry would name and shame vendors where necessary to encourage pricing changes for Australia.

"Name and shame can often be a powerful weapon in flushing out the issues and getting them into some sort of transparent framework, you can expose a lot of the cosy deals and the excessive charging," Neville said.

The Liberal member said the inquiry had the full backing of the opposition, and was keen to probe the wholesale level as well to find out what the “real costs” are.

The report would be a benchmark around which Parliament and State Parliaments can base their future work, he said.

“There is a perception that we’ve become a bit of an easy mark in Australia,” he said

He said the Inquiry had the opportunity to “flush all those issues out into the open”, to structure it around written submissions and to interview the key players.

Committee chair Nick Champion and member Jane Prentice indicated an existing knowledge of the issue, especially on the differing prices of digital music and other products for Australians, compared with global markets.

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