Consumer advocate Choice has condemned Apple Inc for overcharging Australian consumers compared to the US in the iTunes store, but the blame could lie with the Australian music industry.Australian blogger Graham Spencer found that iTunes customers in Australia pay up to 69 per cent more for some songs than in the US. This was followed up by Choice spokesperson Christopher Zinn who has criticised the likes of Apple and Sony for lacking global price parity.
Apple uses an exchange rate that is not directly linked to world exchange rate fluctuations, so an Australian currency appreciation has not shifted iTunes prices in favour of Australian consumers.
Sony similarly has offered a ‘Music Unlimited’ music subscription service that costs Australians three dollars more a month than in the US.
Apple has stated that the diversity of global prices is due to individual content agreements with each country, rendering exchange rates irrelevant.
“Each iTunes store is relevant to the country within which it resides, i.e content availability and pricing is based on agreements with the relevant content owners in each country,” the Apple spokeswoman told SMH.
Australia has seen points of high royalty costs hitting music consumers and businesses using and distributing music commercially, which could be a major influence on the current cost of iTunes music distribution if what Apple says is true.
The Australian music industry is represented by a handful of organisations including the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA).
The PPCA prompted action by the Government’s Copyright Tribunal mid-last year to push up licensing fees for music played in fitness venues by up to 1,500%. The move was successful, though was scrapped later in the year by the Federal Court.
According to the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), collecting royalties for copyrighted material is subject to laws in each individual country. Because of this, prices for music can differ in other countries.
ARIA last week released the 2010 wholesale figures for last year in the music industry which indicate a growth in digital music sales as physical CD sales slumped. More importantly, the dollar value of these sales has grown 30% since the preceding year.