It has long been a gripe of Australian consumers that despite a strong currency they’re asked to fork out considerably more for tech products than their counterparts in other parts the world.

The situation looks as if it may be coming to a head, with the country’s House Committee on Infrastructure and Communications announcing Monday it is summoning representatives from computer giants Apple, Microsoft and Adobe to appear before a special committee to explain exactly how they set their prices. The public hearing is set to take place in Canberra on March 22.

“In what’s probably the first time anywhere in the world, these IT firms are now being summoned by the Australian parliament to explain why they price their products so much higher in Australia compared to the United States,” Labor government MP Ed Husic, who helped set up the committee in May 2012, told Reuters.

He added, “For some time consumers and businesses have been trying to work out why they are paying so much more, particularly for software, where if it’s downloaded there is no shipping or handling, or much of a labor cost.”

A quick look at Adobe’s online stores in the US and Australia and it’s not difficult to find an example of vastly different prices for the same product. CS6 Design & Web Premium, for example, sells on Adobe’s US site for $1899, equal to A$1846. Look on Adobe’s Australian site, however, and the same item is selling for A$3175.

Apple’s lowest-priced latest iPad reportedly sells for $40 more in Australia, while Microsoft’s Office 365 Home Premium sells for about $20 more than in the US.

The companies at the center of the inquiry have reportedly made written submissions to the parliamentary committee but have up to to now declined to appear in person. According to Reuters, failure to respond to the Australian parliament’s summons “could leave all three firms open to contempt of parliament charges, fines or even jail terms.”

[Source: Reuters, BBC] [Image: Stephen Finn / Shutterstock]