I don't envy anyone who's a gamer living in Australia. Horrific, nightmare-inducing wildlife aside, they've got to put up with late releases, overpriced tech, and even more severely-overpriced games. See, most businesses argue that the cost of doing business in Australia, given its isolated nature relative to the rest of the world, is quite high. In a sense, that's a fair justification - distribution to the Outback isn't exactly an easy task. At the same time, though?
They kind of abuse the fact.
Up until now, all Australian consumers could really do was grin and bear it, probably while fighting off dinner-plate-sized spiders with machetes. That's slated to change soon, though - The House of Representatives Infrastructure and Communications Committee today released a 150-page report, the end result of an extensive inquiry into IT pricing in the company.
The findings are simple, and not entirely surprising, either: Australian tech is way too overpriced.
"The committee found that big IT companies and copyright holders charge Australians, on average, an extra 50%, a practice consumers call the 'Australia Tax," Committee Chair Nick Champion MP said in a statement on the report. "High IT prices can have significant impacts given the critical role IT plays in many areas of Australian life. While companies should remain free to set their own prices, the committee took the view that there are a number of ways in which Australia can act to increase competition in IT markets, which should reduce prices over time."
Where video games are concerned, the report compares the cost of 20 recent, newly-release games on EB Games' Australian website against its American website. The majority of these titles were between 40% and 90% more expensive than their U.S. counterparts. With digital distribution, the problem is surprisingly even worse: many titles on Steam range from 200%-300% more expensive. That's actually so expensive that purchasing a physical copy and getting it shipped to the country would be more cost-effective.
The committee also examined the laundry list of reasons the IT and games industry have given for the price differences, the most prominent of which were market size, wages, and occupancy cost. What it found was, again, not terribly shocking. "In many instances," reads the report "these higher costs cannot, even cumulatively, explain the price differences consumers experience in relation to many IT products, and especially those delivered via the Internet."
The Committee has now put forward a number of recommendations, including the relaxation of parallel import restrictions, amendments to the 1968 Copyright Act, and better clarification of consumers rights where region-locking and geo-blocking is concerned. Here's hoping something concrete comes of this: Australians have been getting gouged for a touch too long, don't you think?