ACCC report points way for cheaper books and software

3 April 2001

Australian consumers continue to pay higher prices for books and computer software than their overseas counterparts, according to an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report.

"On average, Australians paid around 44 per cent more for fiction paperbacks than United States readers did in the 12½ years from July 1988 to December 2000", ACCC Chairman, Professor Allan Fels, said today.

"During the same period, Australians paid around nine per cent more than UK readers for best-selling paperback fiction.

"Computer software prices are also high compared with the US and UK.

"Australian consumers of packaged business software have paid, on average, 27 per cent more over the decade to December 1998 than consumers in the US. During 1998, users of popular PC computer games paid on average 33 per cent more than users in the USA.

The ACCC found that substantial consumer benefits, including lower prices, could arise from an open market for both books and computer software.

The report updates of the ACCC's March 1999 report to the Federal Government on the Potential Consumer Benefits of Repealing the Importation Provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 as they apply to Books and Computer Software.

"The report includes the latest pricing information for books, computer software and sound recordings.

"Today's release follows on the Government's introduction of a Bill to amend the Copyright Act to allow for the parallel importation of legitimately produced books, periodicals, printed music and software products, including computer-based games.

"Parallel imports of sound recordings have been allowed since July 1998, and the prices of CDs in Australia have been trending downwards since August 1998. As at December 2000, Australian retail prices were 11.8 per cent below the USA and 20.7 per cent less than the UK, but 27.3 per cent higher than New Zealand and 18.6 per cent higher than Singapore.

"The importation provisions of the Copyright Act restrict competition to the detriment of consumers by granting an import monopoly to copyright holders.

"The prices of technical and professional books are also high compared with the USA and UK. The ACCC's surveys suggest that currently a selection of such books are around 23 per cent more expensive in Australia than in the USA, and 18 per cent more expensive than in the UK.

"The latest spot price comparisons show that despite recent falls in the value of the Australian dollar, Australians are still paying around 12 per cent more, on average, for leading business software than their US counterparts.

"Devotees of popular PC games pay around 20 per cent more than those in the UK and 5 per cent more than New Zealand players.

"The surveys confirm that in many instances Australian consumers are paying too much for their best-selling books and software compared with their counterparts in the USA, UK and New Zealand".

The ACCC recommended that the importation provisions of the Copyright Act be repealed as they apply to books and computer software.

Release number: 
MR 069/01
ACCC Infocentre: 

Use this form to make a general enquiry.

Media enquiries: 
Ms Lin Enright - (02) 6243 1108