Cheaper Books? Doubtful.

>> Friday, July 24, 2009

As a keen reader (and terrible writer) I have been following the various hissyfits over the Productivity Commission's recommendation to abolish Parallel Import Restrictions with interest, and had found it difficult to find, amongst the various rantings and hurling of insults, any information that would explain clearly what exactly it all meant.

A clear explanation and (to me, highly persuasive) argument againt the abolition of PIRs can be found here. I wasn't exactly persuaded by the arguments put forward by the Coalition for Cheaper Books to start with - I mean really, who trusts retailers to champion lower prices for consumers? As Sally has noted:

The ‘Coalition’ is in fact made up of some very familiar names: Dymocks, Woolworths, Coles, K Mart, Big W and Target. Only one of these has selling books as a core business. All of them have retail as a core business – and a responsibility to maximise their profits to keep shareholders happy. And yet we are asked to believe, because they call themselves ‘The Coalition for Cheaper Books’ that their primary aim is to reduce book prices.

Think, if you will, about recent press about grocery prices. Consumer groups have been hugely concerned that the virtual duopoly held by Coles and Woolworths in the grocery market has driven grocery prices up. This pair also holds a vast share of the petrol market – where prices again go up even as world oil prices drop. Coles and Woolworths (and their subsidiaries) make up a major proportion of the so-called Coalition for Cheaper Books. If they are not concerned with lowering grocery and fuel prices, why should we believe that they will decrease book prices?


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