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Australia to question Apple, Microsoft, Adobe over high local prices

Australian officials are looking into whether Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe charge too much for their products in the region.

The committee for infrastructure and communications within Australia's House of Representatives will hold a hearing on 22 March 2013 to examine the issue. In a news release, the committee said it has issued summonses to the three tech firms to appear at that hearing.

"The Committee is looking at the impacts of prices charged to Australian consumers for IT products - Australian consumers often pay much higher prices for hardware and software than people in other countries," the committee said. "The Committee has been examining claims made by organizations such as CHOICE, and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network."

CHOICE, which describes itself as "the people's watchdog," said in a statement that it welcomed the committee's probe. The group said the government's investigation will focus on the price of computers, software, games, and digital music "to force international companies to front up and explain their higher prices in Australia."

CHOICE submitted a report to the committee last year, which found that Australians are paying on average 34 per cent more for software, 52 per cent more for iTunes music, 88 per cent more for Wii games and 41 per cent more for computer hardware than US consumers.

"We have recommended that the government investigate whether measures used to sustain international price discrimination, like geo-blocking, are anti-competitive," CHOICE said.

On the Apple Australia website, an iPad mini starts at approximately $379 (£24), whereas it is $329 (£210) in the US. The Microsoft Surface RT, meanwhile, starts at $575 (£370) in Australia and $499 (£320) in the U.S.

We've reached out to Microsoft, Adobe, and Apple, and will update with any statement they might have.

This is not the first time Apple has tangled with Australian officials. In June 2012, Apple was fined about $2 million (£1.28 million) for misleading the public about the new iPad's cellular capabilities.