When it comes to shopping, Australians are being treated like second class citizens, paying first class prices.
Cortney Thomson is always online which means she can always shop -- she bypasses the Aussie stores and sites and saves money by shopping as an American. "On the Australian Clinique website you have a 30ml foundation for $50 and then you've got the exact same product in the U.S. retailing at $26 -- double the price for an Australian", Cortney said.
The only thing that changes is if you put a dot au after it, the price goes up.
"The online phenomenon is just a fantastic tool, for shoppers to discover prices quickly", said Craig Woolford.
Retail Equity Analyst at Citi, Craig says, "I can sit at my computer in Sydney and understand what prices are being offered in U.S. retail stores, in U.K. retail stores or anywhere in Asia".
And that's exactly what we did -- we found Aussies were always paying more. Buying a Dermalogica product of the brand's U.S. site you'll pay $35; the same product on the Australian website is $65.00. Online at lego.com it's $19.99 for this Wolverine helicopter; change the country location to Australia and the product is $49.99.
And digital products sent via the web are as easy to buy as clicking a button. Australian band The Temper Trap's latest album will set you back $20.99 on Australian iTunes; change your country location and the US is getting a better deal at $10.99 on Aussie homegrown music.
Many foreign websites will either out right block Australian users or not accept their credit cards or simply refuse to ship here.
This kind of pricing has gone unexplained for years but that may be about to change. "The inquiry will establish if a difference exists, why it exists and importantly what can be done to get a better deal for consumers and for businesses", said Federal MP Ed Husic.
He has championed the consumers' cause against price discrimination. "If suppliers are able to shop across the world for the supply of goods and services to improve their bottom line, then I reckon Aussie consumers should be entitled to do exactly the same", Mr. Husic said.
"There probably will be changes and crackdowns in the way goods are received into the country, but until that happens, there's always going to be a loophole", Cortney said.
It's a loophole of which more Australians are taking advantage. By using third party buying sites or re-mailers, Australians can buy a product via a separate company, have it shipped to an America address, and then have it reshipped here. Websites like hop shop go will get you around any Australian discrimination and Cortney uses them frequently. "These Denon headphones I bought online from the US door-to-door $280; from and Australian online website they were $400", she said.
And it's catching on. Last year international online sales were up 40%to $4 billion while local online sales accounted for $8 billion but only up 25%.
Craig says brand owners are part of the reason we pay more. "In the industry we call it 'channel management', so over many, many years there's always price differences that existed between different countries for the same product", Craig said.
Brands predetermine what regions will pay for different products. They can also decide some markets will access a product exclusively removing international competition; they can control what price a consumer pays for a product depending on where and how they try to buy it. They write their own rules and they decide that Australia pays more.
We pay more because they know we will -- we've been conditioned. "This term is called 'price harmonization'. The harmonization is a difficult process for the Australian retailers because it may mean that their revenues go backwards if prices come down", Craig said.
But as more people look off shore and find ways around shopping road blocks that will happen anyway. "I would say to Australian stockists and retailers -- if you want us to buy from Australia, you have to give us a reason to, you can't forget why we would come to you; value for money and customer service --something more that we can't get from buying it overseas", Cortney said.