Australians are paying 50 per cent more than American shoppers for downloaded music and games, as well as computer software and hardware, consumer watchdog Choice says.
In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into IT Pricing, Choice says Australians are on the wrong end of of international price discrimination by copyright holders.
New research carried out by the group found price differences across a range of IT products including iTunes downloads, PC games, personal and business software, Wii console games and computer hardware.
"In Australia you pay, on average, 52 per cent more than an American consumer will for the same 50 top iTunes songs," says Choice head of campaigns, Matt Levey.
"A selection of 44 popular home and business software products were, on average, 34 per cent more expensive in Australia than the US."
Mr Levey said in its research Choice discovered one Microsoft software development product that was more than $8500 cheaper in the US.
"It would be cheaper to pay someone's wage and fly them to the US and back twice, getting them to buy the software while they're there,” he said.
Mr Levey said the research exposed a practice of international copyright owners discriminating against Australian consumers by charging unjustifiably higher prices.
"This situation disadvantages all consumers, but it creates even more barriers to the digital economy for people on low incomes or in remote areas,” he said.
In its submission, Choice rejects arguments from some retailers and IT manufacturers that local factors, like wages, rent and transportation, account for higher IT product prices.
"These products are largely identical, regardless of where you buy them. In some cases, such as iTunes downloads, there are practically no overheads in delivering the product to Australian consumers,” Mr Levey said.
The consumer group also dismisses the campaign being waged by some retailers to lower the GST import threshold from the current level of $1000, to allow more competitive pricing in the Australian market.
It says with price differences of 50 per cent it is difficult to believe retailers' claims that the GST is a significant contributor to higher IT product prices in Australia.
"The GST simply cannot account for the price differences in IT hardware and software, and lowering the threshold would significantly disadvantage Australian consumers shopping online," Mr Levey said.
Earlier this year, Minister for Communications, Stephen Conroy signed off on the parliamentary inquiry into why Australians pay more for music and game downloads and other IT products.
Technology giant, Microsoft — who blamed factors including the relatively high cost of labour and rent for higher prices here — is among moe than 70 individuals and organisations, including dozens of angry consumers, who have made submissions to the inquiry.