By Alexandra Burlacu | Feb 11, 2013 12:18 PM EST
The Australian government has subpoenaed technology giants Apple, Microsoft and Adobe to appear before a committee and justify their high prices in the country.
All three companies are due to appear before a public hearing on March 22 to explain why some of their products cost more in Australia than in other countries.
After consumer bodies have complained on several occasions that Australians are overcharged, the House of Representatives launched an investigation in July 2012 to determine whether some goods were indeed higher priced in Australia compared to other parts of the world. The companies have made written submissions to the committee, but so far they have declined to appear in person despite several requests.
According to CNET Australia, the country's House Committee on Infrastructure and Communications officially subpoenaed Apple, Microsoft and Adobe on Monday, Feb. 10, to explain why products on the Australian market apparently carry higher premiums than identical items sold internationally. The summons (PDF) is part of an ongoing investigation probing potential price-gouging regarding digital content and computer hardware.
"Adobe, Apple and Microsoft are just a few firms that have continually defied the public's call for answers and refused to appear before the IT Pricing Inquiry," said Member of Parliament and inquiry chief Ed Husic, as quoted by Kotaku Australia. "It'll be interesting to hear specifically how all three companies defend their practices - particularly with regards to the pricing of digital products. Considering the amount of publishers that artificially raise prices on services like Steam for Australian consumers, hopefully these summons represent a very real attempt by the Australian government to take IT companies to task on unfair pricing policies."
The Australian Parliament first launched the probe over IT hardware and software back in April 2012, aiming to investigate price differences between Australia and other countries. Earlier reports cited the cost of Adobe's Creative Suite 6 as an example. The product launched last year in the U.S. with a $1,299 price tag, while in Australia it cost more than double - nearly $2,700.
If the companies fail to appear on March 22 they could be held in contempt of Parliament. Possible penalties in this case include a range of measures, including fines or even jail time.