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Australia probes download, software pricing disparities

Investigators to call Apple and Microsoft, among others, to explain why it costs more to download software and other content Down Under than in other countries.

Australia's Parliament is planning to investigate why it costs more to download software and other content in Australia than it does in other countries.

The probe comes after a report on the situation released last year by the government Productivity Commission found significant price disparity between prices charged in Australia and in overseas markets. The controversy flared up again last week when Adobe Systems announced that Australians would be paying several hundred dollars more for its Creative Suite software than their American counterparts.

"People here scratch their heads trying to work out why they get fleeced on software downloads," Member of Parliament Ed Husic told The Age. "When the Productivity Commission asked IT companies why they charge so much for downloads, even they found the answers were not persuasive."

Politicians hope that by calling companies such as Apple and Microsoft, among others, to explain their pricing models that such publicity will lead to lower prices on downloads. Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy is backing the inquiry and said pricing of software and other IT-related material has a big impact on businesses.

"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," Conroy said in a letter to Husic, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. ''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.''

CNET contacted Apple and Microsoft for comment, and we'll update this report when we get more information.