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Monday, April 30, 2012, 09:56 am PT (12:56 pm ET)

Australian government questions Apple over digital content 'price gouging'

The government of Australia has signed off on a parliamentary inquiry into alleged price gouging by Apple and other technology companies that sell digital content.

The government has taken issue with the fact that content sold through iTunes, including music and games, can be more expensive in Australia than in other overseas countries, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. The hope is that the inquiry will prompt the price of content in Australia to drop accordingly

In addition to Apple, the government will also invite Microsoft and "all the big computer and software companies," the report said, to explain why digital content costs more Down Under.

Also mentioned in the story is Adobe, which announced its new Creative Suite 6 last week. The Standard Design version of the package costs $1,299, but customers in Australia will pay up to $1,400 more for the same software, the report said.

"People here scratch their heads trying to work out why they get fleeced on software downloads," said Ed Husic, a member of the Australian House of Representatives. The government inquiry will begin later this year and will be conducted by the House of Representatives standing committee on infrastructure and communications.

iTunes


In addition, the inquiry will also look into e-book prices — a topic where Apple is already the subject of an antitrust lawsuit from the U.S. government. It has accused Apple of illegally working with a number of book publishers to raise the prices of digital books, though Apple contends that no collusion took place in switching to a so-called "agency model" for sales, allowing publishers to set their own prices for e-books.

In March, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission accused Apple of "misleading" customers into thinking its newest iPad runs at fast 4G LTE speeds in Australia, while LTE connectivity for the device is actually restricted to North America. Apple quickly complied by updating its online store with more prominent text informing consumers that the 4G version of the new iPad does not work with LTE networks in Australia, and also sent out an e-mail to Australian customers offering them a full refund if they are unhappy with their new iPad.