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Bill Bennett

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Technology price gouging in New Zealand

Australia’s government wants technology companies to explain why Australians pay more for technology products than US customers.

Our government seems unconcerned that New Zealand gets the same raw deal.

This week Canberra summoned Apple, Microsoft and Adobe to appear before an inquiry.

To be fair, Apple’s hardware prices in Australia and New Zealand are close to US prices. After taxes we pay fractionally more. That’s reasonable given our market size and currency fluctuation. Likewise, most of Microsoft’s NZ prices are roughly in line with the US.

Adobe is something else completely. Some products sell for twice their US price in New Zealand. That’s hard to justify when you realise they are sold as downloads – Adobe doesn’t need to move boxes around the world.

Australia’s government can’t force companies charge reasonable prices – and anyway even attempting that kind of market control would be dangerous. That doesn’t make the inquiry pointless,  getting this information out in the open is good. The publicity puts pressure on companies to behave.

Of course, when they have monopolies – like the one Adobe has on design software – companies don’t have to behave.

Should New Zealand have a price inquiry? I’d say it falls into what Finance Minister calls the “nice to have category”. We particularly don’t need the expense and distraction of holding one when Canberra has already gone to so much trouble. Any benefits the Australians get from the shining a light on international prices will probably rub off on us.

After all, most of these multinationals don’t even recognise New Zealand as a separate market from Australia.

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