OPINION: It has been known by savvy consumers for decades that places outside of Australia often have cheaper prices, whether in Asia, or in the US – where cheaper prices are still the norm.
Choice Magazine has uncovered for its submission to an Australian Federal Government “Parliamentary Inquiry” that Aussies are “paying on average 34% more for software, 51% more for iTunes music, 88% more for Wii games and 41% more for computer hardware than US consumers”.
We’re not alone in these complaints - consumers in the UK often complain that US prices are often converted to pounds by simply substituting the dollar symbol for the pound symbol, while Australians have, for years, paid anywhere up to double or more the price that US consumers have paid.
Back in the 70s, there was a time when the Australian dollar was worth US $1.20, but during the Howard/Costello years there was a time when one Australian dollar only purchased US 49 cents.
One reason is that Australian wages, insurances, taxes, duties, levies and red tape are more expensive than in the US, while US pricing also avoid listing the price inclusive of tax, something that must be done in Australia.
Another reason is that countries outside the US are simply made to subsidise the cheaper US prices, a fact that is seemingly ever more apparent as the US dollar has plunged in value over the past few years, one big reason why the Aussie dollar went to parity with the US and became more valuable – a situation that is similar for Canadians.
Choice Magazine says that these higher prices “disadvantage all consumers, and create even more barriers for people on low incomes or in remote areas, who are less likely to have access to either the internet or a computer”.
Unfortunately, these are the facts of life living in Australia – as long as companies are able to set prices free of government interference, and as long as it is possible to buy products from overseas without paying ridiculous massive duties, companies in Australia should be free to charge what they want, and consumers should be free to purchase from wherever suits them best – locally or internationally.
However, Choice Magazine does point out the ridiculousness of Microsoft charging $8,665.29 more for Australians to purchase a “Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN (New Subscription)” than it charges to US customers.
Really, the best way to get companies to lower their prices is to expose these massive differences, and to vote with your wallet to buy internationally, if that's where better prices are to be found – money is a powerful motivator, after all.
Complaining to the government only encourages the government to get involved in ever more areas of our lives, and given government’s woeful track record, this really is not to be encouraged.
Choice makes a number of recommendations which you, as a consumer, should read all about here at the Choice website.
Ultimately, however, consumers should be free to purchase from whomever and whichever jurisdiction gives them the best deal, and governments should keep their already “deep in the trough” noses right out of it.