Australian Gamers Getting Ripped Off; Inquiry Wants to Know Why

If you live in Australia, you know how expensive stuff is to buy. Quite frankly, we’re getting ripped off.

Not long ago there was a huge controversy over the price of Battlefield 3‘s downloadable content in Australia – it was priced almost three times the amount our American friends were expected to pay.

The problem, though, is that it’s not an isolated case. The average song on iTunes sets you back in Australia $1.29 but only $0.99 in USA. A copy of Microsoft Windows 7 Professional costs Aussies $399.95, but Americans get away with paying only $199.99.

Even a bottle of Coke costs Australians $2 more than Americans.

To find out why, the House of Representatives launched an inquiry aimed at the consumer electronics industry. Their arguments are that on average Apple products cost over 57 percent more in Australia than other countries, and some Nintendo Wii games set Aussies back a staggering 88 percent more than Americans.

The Australian Information Industry Association – a paid lobby group who are, for some reason, representing all these companies including Adobe, Samsung, Microsoft, Sony and all the rest – says that the reason for the high prices is that it costs a lot more to do business in Australia.

“Costs associated with product and service sales in Australia include GST, customs duty and regulatory requirements such as consumer guarantees which impose strict warranty requirements on suppliers and which add to business costs,” said the association’s chief executive Suzanne Campbell in a statement.

“Buyers in Australia have a much higher level of protection than consumers in many other markets and this protection has associated costs.” Russell Zimmerman, also from the AIIA said. “We’ve probably seen some fairly strong price deflation in the hardware side of things but, still, we tend to think that our prices for even hardware are still high here in Australia and overseas.”

I think there’s a number of reasons. I think you’ve got to look through the supply chain, the supply chain costs are much greater here in Australia, and whether that starts from the warehousing costs through to delivery, through to retail rents or through a lot of other areas that are picking up pricing structures on the way through, those costs are much greater here in Australia than they are overseas.”

Of course, none of that explains the inflated costs of digital content.

And if it sounds like they’re making a lot of ridiculous excuses, it’s because they are – this tradition of doubling up the prices for Australians goes back to 2001 when the Australian Dollar hit its lowest point against the United States Dollar. In an instant, one Aussie dollar bought only 47 US cents.

The country was in a pretty healthy state back in 2001 and as America’s economy worsened, the Australian dollar rose back to near-parity in 2008. Today, one Australian dollar buys US$1.05.

The problem is that today, Australia’s economy is in pretty dire circumstances so being ripped off is actually becoming quite painful. But as Apple and Microsoft refused to appear before the inquiry, one must wonder what – if anything – can be done to buck the trend?

The easy solution would be for our government to actually support these industries – attract the construction of factories to build consumer electronics in Australia, for example – but what are the odds of that happening?

Another question raised by the inquiry was the practise of “geo-blocking” Australian customers from international online stores, forcing them to pay the premium rather than buying from another country.

Do you feel ripped off as an Australian consumer of all things tech? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • GreenScreener

    Not wanting to make excuses here but Apple do make adjustments on their hardware prices and are pretty competitive atm. Even your example of iTunes songs doesn’t allow for GST which you never see on US costs as GST is state specific. So their .99 would be $1.09 here and while not great I can live with a 10-20% markup. It’s the 100-300% markup that has me fuming, especially on digital content but in a free market society not sure what you can do apart from not buy it. I have refused to buy BF3 Premium for the stunts EA have pulled on that and more of us have to do the same.

  • Air-Dog

    That’s all good and well for physical goods – but what about digital downloads. On the Playstation Store – games in the US will sell for about $14.99, but in Australia be $29.99.
    New Digital downloadable games (full retail games) cost $49.99 in the US store and $79.99 in the AU store. I have at times been buying US store credit to buy games from a US store because it is much cheaper.
    When it is a digital download – it just comes across as being greedy!

  • Lauren Stirling

    This REALLY frustrates me, because I love games and supporting the gaming industry – especially Nintendo games. However, when the Wii U comes out we’re going to have to shell out ~$600, and then ~$110 games on top of that – that’s double what they’ll pay in the US, if not more. It’s just not possible for me (and probably many other Australians) to justify spending that much money on a gaming console that I might not even be able to use until I can afford to buy even a single game for it.