Choice, ACCAN want action on IT pricing following report

Action on committee recommendations unlikely until after election, says Choice

Consumer advocacy organisations have called for government action after a parliamentary report on IT pricing found Australians on average are charged 50 per cent more than people in comparable countries.

The IT pricing report, released today, recommended greater consumer education and law changes aimed at increasing competition and protecting vulnerable social groups.

Matt Levey, head of campaigns at Choice, said the committee has released “a very strong set of recommendations, but obviously the proof will now be in whether that translates into action in the Parliament.”

“We know from experience that many good reports have found their way onto the dusty shelves of the parliamentary library, never to be heard from again.”

Choice expects the next Parliament to take up the issue after the federal election, Levey told Computerworld Australia. The report was bipartisan, increasing the chances of legislation being passed, he said.

Levey especially praised the committee’s recommendations to stop geoblocking, which he said vendors have used to “artificially carve up markets and sustain high prices in regions like Australia.” Geoblocking is the practice of stopping users from accessing websites or online content based on the location of their IP address.

Choice wasn't disappointed that the committee did not come down harder on the vendors themselves and directly regulate prices, said Levey. “We always took the view that this wasn’t about intervention from government—this was actually about getting rid of the intervention from global copyright holders and manufacturers.”

While the committee has not attempted to directly regulate prices, the report increases pressure on the IT vendors, who risk reputational damage if they do not voluntarily lower prices, Levey said.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has also applauded the IT pricing report, focussing its praise on a recommendation to address the effect of high prices on people with disabilities who often have low income but must pay more for specialised, accessible technology.

“As one of the largest buyers of ICT, the government has the purchasing power to stimulate the market to give us a greater choice of accessible products and services,” said ACCAN disability policy advisor Wayne Hawkins.

“If, as part of the tender process, governments explicitly say they wanted to buy ICT that is accessible for people with disability, companies will try harder to include those features when designing and developing new products.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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