Australia is considering banning companies from preventing or penalising users for overcoming region-lockout methods employed in a number of devices, including video game consoles.
A recent inquiry into price gouging of electronic devices, software, games and movies in Australia rejected the notion that it cost more to sell goods in a country with a smaller population. The inquiry, conducted by the House of Representatives, found no legitimate reason for why products cost up to 50 to 100 per cent more in Australia than other countries.
The inquiry handed several recommendations to the Australian Government for their consideration to eventually pass into law. First up was the recommendation that the Government set up a monitoring system to keep tabs on price fluctuations.
More interesting, however, is the recommendation that region-locking (also called “geo-blocking”) be legally circumvented by Australian consumers should they — in the case of gaming consoles — find a cheaper video game elsewhere in the world.
The inquiry also wants to see the Government and businesses to educate consumers about the ability to circumvent the geo-blocking features. Should the market not comply with these ideas, there was also a recommendation on banning region-locked devices altogether meaning game console makers will have to either release region-free devices, or not release in Australia at all.
Further, it will be illegal for a company to penalise users for breaking the region-lockout features, meaning service agreements and contracts will have to be rewritten for the Australian region.
Another recommendation is that consumers be given a “right of resale” on digitally purchased goods, such as games downloaded on Nintendo eShop or PlayStation Network. This stretches further to disallow companies from locking down digitally purchased items to a single ecosystem. We imagine this would extend to companies like Apple, who do not allow TV shows and movies to be played on non-Apple devices.
Of course, these are all recommendations at this point. Time will tell if any will be passed into law.