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Australians are paying as much as fifty percent more than US consumers for music downloads, software and computer games, consumer watchdog Choice has found.After surveying the field in the lead up to the current federal parliamentary inquiry into Australian tech prices, Choice said it had found price differences across every IT product it looked at, including iTunes downloads, PC games, personal and business software, Wii console games and computer hardware.

Choice’s head of campaigns Matt Levey claims its research proves international copyright owners are discriminating against Australian consumers by charging unjustifiably higher prices.

“In Australia you pay, on average, 52 per cent more than an American consumer will for the same 50 top iTunes songs,” he said. “A selection of 44 popular home and business software products were, on average, 34 per cent more expensive in Australia than the US.

“We found that, with one Microsoft software development product, it would be cheaper to pay someone’s wage and fly them to the US and back twice, getting them to buy the software while they’re there.”

Choice rejects IT industry arguments that local factors, like wages, rent and transportation, make higher IT product prices. necessary. “These products are largely identical, regardless of where you buy them. In some cases, such as iTunes downloads, there are practically no overheads in delivering the product to Australian consumers,” said Levey.

The watchdog has also dismissed arguments by some retailers – including Harvey Norman’s Gerry Harvey – that the GST import threshold should be lowered from the current level of $1000.

“The GST simply cannot account for the price differences in IT hardware and software, and lowering the threshold would significantly disadvantage Australian consumers shopping online,” said Levey.

Choice has submitted the findings of its survey to the current parliamentary inquiry, which is due to begin public hearings on July 30.

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