Apple's Foreign Affair

I finished reading Trevor's article, "Americans Getting Cheaper Macs?", and I said to myself, "$50 over-charging? That's nothing!". You see, I've been pricing up Apple machines here in the UK. I think you'll be shocked at what you find - at least, if you live in the US you will.

I'm taking the current exchange rate of £1 Sterling = $1.56361 US.

The UK price is inclusive of 17.5% VAT, but we can't get out of paying that (no shipping across state lines as is possible in the US).

Here are the figures:

 

US ($)

UK (£)

UK ($)

Difference ($)

% Increase

eMac

Combo

$999

£799

$1249.32

$250.32

25.1%

SuperDrive

$1299

£999

$1562.05

$363.05

27.9%

'Ultimate' (US Spec)

$1458

£1207.99

$1888.83

$430.83

29.5%

PowerBook

12" Combo

$1799

£1399

$2187.49

$388.49

21.6%

12" SuperDrive

$1999

£1556.89

$2434.37

$435.37

21.8%

15" Combo

$2299

£1899

$2969.30

$670.30

29.2%

15" SuperDrive

$2799

£2199

$3438.38

$639.38

22.8%

17" SuperDrive

$3299

£2598.99

$4063.81

$764.81

23.2%

iBook

12.1 CD

$999

£799

$1249.32

$250.32

25.1%

12.1 Combo

$1299

£1049

$1640.23

$341.23

26.3%

14.1 Combo

$1499

£1199.01

$1874.78

$375.78

25.1%

14.1 Combo+ (US Spec)

$1749

£1399

$2187.49

$438.49

25.1%

PowerMac

Fast

$1499

£1149

$1796.59

$297.59

20.0%

Faster

$1999

£1599

$2500.21

$501.21

25.1%

Fastest

$2699

£2099

$3282.02

$583.02

21.6%

'Ultimate' (US Spec)

$3799

£2950.11

$4612.82

$813.82

21.4%

iMac

15" Combo

$1299

£999

$1562.05

$263.05

20.2%

17" SD

$1799

£1449

$2265.67

$466.67

25.9%

17" 'Ultimate' (US Spec)

$2348

£1889.67

$2954.71

$606.71

25.8%

Displays

17"

$699

£549

$858.42

$159.42

22.8%

20"

$1299

£1099

$1718.40

$419.40

32.3%

23"

$1999

£1699

$2656.57

$657.57

32.9%

iPod

5GB

$299

£259.01

$404.99

$105.99

35.4%

10GB

$399

£329

$514.43

$115.43

28.9%

20GB

$499

£389.99

$623.86

$124.86

25.0%

Differences

The smallest difference in price is 20%, on the very lowest end PowerMac. This is still higher than the 17.5% VAT (Value Added Tax, for non-UK citizens - essentially a sales tax) levied by the Government, but perhaps forgivable.

The average price difference on these items is a 25.6% increase over US price. I think I've covered every stock system available from the Apple Store, ignoring education discounts. I've also included the iPod and the displays, as these are common and necessary respectively.

It starts getting really silly when the difference on the machines reaches 29.5% on the eMac, and 29.2% on the 15" PowerBook. This is inexcusable - why should a machine shipped from Taiwan to the UK cost 30% more than the same machine, shipped from the same place, but to the US? Of course, there is VAT, which is a separate injustice altogether. But even disregarding that, we have a two-digit discrepancy.

It can't be localised keyboards - you can pick a different layout on the US store (Spanish, for instance).

It can't be localised software - there's no special version of OS X for Britain. It's not even import duty or VAT.

Questions

So, what is it? What can make a piece of paper with 'AppleCare' written on it cost an astonishing 25% more in the UK ($249 US, £200 UK)? The service is the same, as AppleCare for a portable is worldwide cover. This is something I'd definitely buy online!

I'd quite like to know why it would be cheaper for me to get on a plane, fly to Miami, buy a PowerBook, and fly back than to drive to my nearest retailer. Even paying 17.5% VAT to import from the US saves £100 over the UK price.

Accessories

The accessories are even worse than the computers. A 5GB iPod costs a staggering 35.4% more in the UK. Exactly the same device. The larger displays cost a third more. When you start purchasing systems with AppleCare, displays, and accessories, the average cost is likely to be 30% more than the exact same system purchased in the US. Take off the tax, and it's still 10% more - a very significant amount when you're paying £2000 for a computer. When you reach high-end PowerMac levels, the pre-tax difference would buy an iBook!

A Challenge To Apple

So come on Apple, tell me. I'd really like to know why AppleCare is vastly more expensive here, when it's just a contract. Why hardware costs more. Why we pay 13% more pre-tax for the privilege of owning a Cinema Display, just because we have a different accent.

To me, it looks like Apple have said 'stick 25% on, that should cover taxes, then round it to a nice number'. Hardly fair - I think we can cope with an uglier, but smaller, number. Of course, Apple computers are premium goods, and they price at what the market can bear. But I know the UK isn't the most expensive place to buy Macs.

In today's world, where clicking the wrong link can take a customer to an electronic store intended for another nationality, and where it's possible for me to view the prices of an item all over the world in an instant, it is unacceptable and counterproductive to have such ludicrous regional price differences. People have always used cost as an argument against Apple.

Maybe they had something all along.

What do you think? If your over seas, how bad is Apple over-charging you? Sound off in the "America Getting Cheaper Macs?" threads