A parliamentary committee that was set up last year by the Australian government to investigate IT pricing in Australia has finally released its report with recommendations.
Among its findings, the report, titled "At what cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax" noted that Australians are on average paying 50 to 100 per cent more than their overseas counterparts, hinting that the Australia tax is a real thing.
"The committee is of the view that in many instances, 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 report stated.
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The report went on to say that "… it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that these practices amount to international price discrimination to the clear disadvantage of Australian consumers and businesses."
The committee suggests that Australians should instead "engaged in parallel importing" to pressure copyright owners to reduce prices in Australia.
Other recommendations look into the creation of "right of resale" of digital goods, like games and music, as well as blocking the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission from investigating anti-competitive conduct in some areas relating to intellectual property
It also suggested asking the Australian Bureau of Statistics to monitor expenditure on IT products, commissioning a study for better university software procurement and establishing a of whole-of-government IT procurement policy.
Unblock the geoblocked
Touching further upon services and products delivered via the internet, the committee also recommended that the Australian government consider banning geoblocking "as an option of last resort" to uphold copyright laws.
Geoblocking technology has meant that Australians have been faced with content restrictions and businesses showing different pricing on their websites depending on their country of origin.
While we've made recommendations for VPN workarounds to get access to services like Netflix and Hulu, organisations have tried to argue that it should be considered illegal to do so, though others have argued that it could help prevent piracy and torrenting.
Workarounds can at times breach terms and conditions of some services, while its general legality remains unclear under copyright laws.
With such uncertainty, in its report, the committee also recommended that "the Australian government investigate the feasibility of amending the Competition and Consumer Act so that contracts or terms of service which seek to enforce geoblocking are considered void."
It went further to recommend that the Australian government seek to educate consumers on how far they can go to circumvent geoblocking mechanisms to access cheaper, though legitimate goods, what their rights are under the Australian Consumer Law if they do, and how they can go about it.
If the government choose to take on these recommendations remains to be seen, but in the meantime, you can always use our guide.
ACCAN, Australia Tax and disability
With the release of the report looking into IT pricing, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has come forward to urge the government to consider implementing the recommendation for a whole-of-government accessible IT procurement policy.
"The parliamentary committee acknowledged in its report that the higher prices can leave people with disability disproportionately worse off because they are often in the lower income brackets and rely on specialised technology for communication, inclusion and independence," ACCAN said in a media release.
ACCAN disability policy advisor Wayne Hawkins believes that the government has the purchasing power to stimulate the market which would lead to greater consumer choice in relation to accessible products and services.
"The lack of a comprehensive public procurement policy for accessible IT undermines Australia's commitment to its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities," he said.
"The research that is available shows us that Australians living with disability are over-represented in the low income socioeconomic groupings, and these higher prices significantly impede their access to all of the vital services that are now being provided online with telecommunications."