Australia's iTunes Music Store is to be probed on its pricing points, according to reports.
Apple Computer and Microsoft will be among technology companies asked to explain to Australia's Parliament why consumers pay considerably more for music and software downloads Down Under than their counterparts elsewhere.
The inquiry is to begin later this year and would be conducted by the House of Representatives standing committee on infrastructure and communications, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, which broke the story over the weekend.
A spokesperson for iTunes Australia did not respond to a request for comment.
Consumer association Choice has been lobbying for an investigation into the price disparity. A spokesperson for Choice today welcomed the decision, and said iTunes has some explaining to do.
"When we reported to the Productivity Commission in May of last year, we found the top 12 music albums cost on average 73% more on the Australian iTunes Store than the U.S. iTunes Store," Choice spokesperson Ingrid Just tells Billboard.biz. "We've been reporting on geographical pricing for years. And we're certainly pleased there is going to be a spotlight shone on the issue. Companies point to differences in operational costs working in a smaller economy. But the question is whether those differences add up to 50-75% price increases here, versus if you're sitting at a computer overseas."
iTunes opened for business here in 2005 and is the runaway No. 1 player in the digital download business in Australia, where it commands upwards of 70% of all digital download sales, sources say.
It's not the first time iTunes' pricing has come under a spotlight.
Back in 2004, the British consumer advocate "Which?" complained that tracks sold via iTunes stores in France and Germany were €0.99 (or $1.45 at the time), while the U.K. price per track was £0.79 pence (or $1.56). The U.K.'s Office of Fair Trading referred the complaint to the European Commission. The regulator subsequently issuing a Statement of Objections in April 2007, but the case was later closed.