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Apple, Microsoft summoned in Australian pricing probe

Parliamentary committee want the companies to appear to explain why consumers in Australia pay more than their counterparts in other countries.

Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe Systems have been summoned by Australian lawmakers to explain why consumers pay more for IT products Down Under than in other countries.

The Australian Parliament's House Committee on Infrastructure and Communications said Monday that it wants the companies to appear before the committee as part of an ongoing probe regarding disparity between prices charged in Australia and in overseas markets.

"The Committee is looking at the impacts of prices charged to Australian consumers for IT products -- Australian consumers often pay much higher prices for hardware and software than people in other countries," the committee said in a statement (PDF) today.

The committee has scheduled a public hearing regarding the matter for March 22 in Canberra.

The action is part of a probe announced last April by the Australian Parliament into why consumers in Australia pay more to download software and other content than their counterparts in other countries. The controversy took on new life when Adobe announced that Australians would be paying several hundred dollars more for its Creative Suite software than their American counterparts.

Politicians said at the time that they hoped that by calling the trio to testify that it might lead to lower prices.

Member of Parliament Ed Husic, who has been leading the charge for the companies to explain the pricing disparity, applauded the committee's announcement.

"These firms should have cooperated and been prepared to be more open and transparent about their pricing approaches," Husic said in a statement. "In what's probably the first time anywhere in the world, these IT firms are now being called by the Australian Parliament to explain why they price their products so much higher in Australia compared to the U.S."

CNET has contacted the companies in question for comment and will update this report when we learn more.