The standing committee on infrastructure and communications in the Australian House of Representatives will be launching an investigation into why digital goods (such as iTunes music and iBooks) are priced so much more highly in Australia than elsewhere in the world. Traditionally, shipping costs drove prices up for physical goods, but for electronic files you're downloading, there's really no good reason for such a price disparity. Stephen Conroy, Australia's Minister of Communications, said in a recent letter:
There is evidence to suggest that the innovative use of technology is not always matched with innovative new business models in the case of products and services distributed online... I agree that Australian businesses and households should have access to IT software and hardware that is fairly priced relative to other jurisdictions … the global digital economy is likely to make it increasingly difficult to sustain business models that are based on a geographic carve-up of markets.
iOS apps in Australia don't really cost any more than they do over here, but there's a pretty big disparity in music prices. For example, Jack White's newest album, Blunderbuss, and Adele's, 21, cost $10.99 in the U.S., but $16.99 in Australia. I'm sure there are different taxes to be paid over there, but they can't be that huge. As for iBooks, there aren't many textbooks that have found their way to the Australian market since the big educational update. Pricing for iBooks can sometimes be even more expensive than a proper paperback, a situation which is exacerbated by a pricing model which is currently under scrutiny elsewhere, too.
Of course, Apple isn't the only one in the crosshairs. Adobe is charging $1400 more than the the U.S. version for one software package in Australia. Microsoft will also be called to explain its pricing model to the government over the course of the investigation, which will be launching sometime this year.
Australians, who have you found to charge the most inflated prices for digital downloads? Have the higher prices stopped you from buying software, music, or e-books?