Friday, April 16, 2010

i1Pro and the Australia Tax

The X-Rite i1Pro is an important instrument for anyone doing serious computer colour work, particularly for print and pre-press. It's also incredibly pricey, especially if you happen to live in Australia.

There's this oddity known locally as the "Australia Tax". The Australian Tax Office may not know about it, but it appears that local distributors for international businesses are convinced that it exists, and that it's high. That's the only explanation I can find for some of the jaw-dropping price differences between US and Australian versions of the same products - most of which are made in China anyway.

I got the X-Rite i1Pro instrument cheap (ish) - at AU$1500 ex GST and shipping compared to the AU$1800 quoted price. X-Rite force you to buy through exclusive local dealerships that add a huge markup, so while the US price is US$995 for the same instrument (AU$1200 @ current rates) you can't just order from the US. They won't ship it to you. You can use a US remailing service but X-Rite won't register it and won't support it outside the US - and neither will the AU distributor. You can't get it recalibrated etc without a painful amount of effort.

The AU dealership tries to claim it "adds value" ... but they don't do local advanced tech support, don't have any techs or offices outside metro Sydney, ship the instruments off to the US (3-4 week round trip) for calibration, and don't even keep spares in stock. So what value, exactly, do they add, other than to the price tag?

X-Rite and their distributors are raking it in with this arrangement. Unfortunately, X-Rite have been buying out all their competitors (like GretagMacbeth) so they're the only game in town. Like Quark, they'll suffer for their customer-hostile attitude and parallel import restrictions eventually, but right now they're in the "raking in the dough" phase.

(Of course, literally three days after I bought the i1Pro, Graham Gill, who develops Argyll CMS, announced support for the much cheaper ColorMunki spectrophotometer ... but hey, the i1Pro is a much better instrument so no harm done.)

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