Summonses have been issued for the three companies to appear at a public hearing in Canberra on Friday March 22, the House Committee on Infrastructure and Communications said in a media statement.
The committee is looking at the impacts of prices charged to Australian consumers for IT products, claiming that Australian consumers often pay much higher prices for hardware and software than people in other countries.
Labor MP Ed Husic - pictured - the most outspoken committee member, though not its chairman (that role falls to another Labor MP, South Australian Nick Champion) said: "In what's probably the first time anywhere in the world, these IT firms are now being called by the Australian Parliament to explain why they price their products so much higher in Australia compared to the US."
Husic claims he has seen estimates suggesting that Australian prices are up to 60 percent higher than the US and he has been backed by consumer group Choice, which has said it has evidence showing Australians pay around 50 per cent more than US consumers for identical music, software, games and hardware.
While it seems the three companies can be compelled to appear, they cannot be forced to give the details of their pricing policies which Husic and some other committee members want in the public arena. Some polite stonewalling is likely.
The three companies have previously declined to provide evidence in a public forum, but had said they would be willing to provide it either in camera or as part of a broader submission by an industry-wide representative group.
Apple previously requested and was granted an off-record hearing behind closed doors. Adobe and Microsoft both provided individual statements and submissions to the inquiry, apparently without going into fine details of their pricing regimes.
An Adobe Australia spokeswoman yesterday said the company had received the summons and would cooperate with the committee "as we have done since the inquiry began."