Adobe pricing sucks

January 20, 2012

Back in 2008 I had a little rant about Adobe’s pricing model for countries outside the US, specifically Australia. Since then I’ve spoken to several Adobe employees at conferences in the US about this, but have received no satisfactory answer as to why there is such a discrepancy between the prices I see on the US website and the prices Adobe insists I pay because I live in Australia. Those employees were as baffled as me, and I got feedback that the pricing in other countries, such as the UK, was just as confusing when compared to the US pricing.

So why bring this up again? Because someone from Adobe called me the other day and offered to look into the pricing situation. She called me back yesterday and said that the reason she was given for the price discrepancies was ‘taxes’. Well, to put not too fine a point on it, that’s just bullsh*t.

Here’s why: Australia has the GST, which is a flat 10% tax on ALL goods and services. If you buy something from a store here, there are no state taxes, county taxes, city taxes, other sales taxes and levies like in the US. In Australia you pay the ticketed price on the item, which invariably includes the GST (e.g. a $99 item is actually $90 retail price + $9 GST). That’s it. Very simple.

The GST applies to most goods and services purchased within Australia, including software. It applies to goods purchased from outside Australia if the cost of the item exceeds $1000, otherwise the item is GST-free.

So with that information, let’s look at how Adobe prices its software in Australia and the US. I’ve used Adobe Captivate 5.5 and the eLearning Suite in my examples, both the upgrade prices and the full price (for Captivate 5.5 only), and have used www.xe.com for converting the prices from Australian dollars (AU$) to US dollars (US$) and vice versa. All price conversions were done on the same day within about an hour, so currency fluctuations aren’t an issue.


For ease of comparison, I’ve converted all Australian dollar prices to US dollars — see below for screen shots of conversion values.

Product Adobe
US store
AU store
Price difference
Captivate 5.5 Upgrade $149 $265 $116 (~80%) more in Aust
Captivate 5.5 New $799 $1389 $590 (~75%) more in Aust
eLearning Suite Upgrade $399 $695 $296 (~75%) more in Aust

Bottom line: Adobe charges its Australian customers nearly double the price it charges for its US customers. A 10% tax is neither here nor there with that sort of price gouging, which is why I said that the explanation of ‘taxes’ was bullsh*t. Besides, the Australian prices I found on the Adobe store already INCLUDE the 10% GST, so those 75–80% increases are on top of the tax.

Buying from the US Adobe store is NOT an option — while I can provide a US address as I have family there, I need a US credit card too. So I either don’t buy upgrades regularly (thus doing Adobe out of a revenue stream), or I find other ways to buy the product without going through Adobe at all (still doing Adobe out of a revenue stream!).

Would anyone from Adobe like to explain why we get screwed on the prices we pay for a DOWNLOADABLE product, which most likely comes from US servers no matter where we live and pay for it?

And I’d be happy for those from other countries outside the US to comment on the prices they pay (converted to US dollars for a fair comparison).

Screen shots

US prices: $149 to upgrade to Captivate 5.5 from Captivate 5 (which I have) and $399 to upgrade to the eLearning Suite.

US prices for upgrading Captivate and the eLearning Suite

Those US upgrade prices in Australian currency:

US$149 converted to Australian currency

US$399 converted to Australian currency Australian prices: $255 for the Captivate upgrade, $669 for the eLearning Suite upgrade

Australian pricing, which includes the GST
Those upgrade prices in US currency:

AU$255 converted to US currency

AU$699 converted to US currency

To buy Captivate 5.5 without an upgrade (i.e. new), the prices are US$799 in the US and AU$1337 in Australia:

Update 13 February 2013: According to one news report, it’s cheaper to fly to the US to buy some Adobe products than buy them in Australia! http://www.news.com.au/technology/biztech/it-is-cheaper-to-fly-to-us-than-buy-adobe-software-in-australia/story-fn5lic6c-1226576920561


  1. After giving this one a good squizz, it appears that your heading regarding Adobe’s pricing is EXACT (spot on).
    I have no idea what drango wanker they put in charge of pricing (or customer service for that matter [which by-the-by is a complete oxymoron—emphasis on the MORON] for Adobe) but they obviously don’t care about mate’s rates or any other sense of fair pricing.
    I can’t even imagine why they would ignore this issue and cut their revenue stream(s) from such a wide-ranging population of folks—surely you Aussies buy as much software as us Yanks?!?
    It’s quite unfathomable to me how they get away with it (both the price gouging and the obtuse attitude towards their AU customers!).
    I say we should start up a petition to boycott Adobe or start up a website to get the word out to the general population!

  2. The dutch customer service told me (about 6 months ago) that we had to pay more because customer sevice in Europe was free and in the US customers must pay for the serviceline.

    About the service: realy friendly people who don`t know much about Captivate and are willing to report bugs to the design team.

    About bugs: ……

  3. Hi Rhonda

    Yes, I know just how you feel :)

    My last two upgrades of Corel products and Roxio’s video editing software were exorbitantly priced on oz web sites. Fortunately each could be purchased via their US web sites.

    I also managed to obtain a promo coupon improving the pricing even more. Each item was purchased at less than half the Oz price.

    Kind regards


  4. BTW Have you tried Amazon as an alternative (you probably have), they’re usually cheaper than Adobe anyway :)

    Adobe Acrobat X upgrade US$199 at Adobe and US$184 and Amazon



  5. Thanks Peter.

    Yes, I tried Amazon several times and was always given a message that they couldn’t sell to me at that price (or at all) because of where I lived. However, I went through most of the purchase process on Amazon the other day and I wasn’t stopped, so it’s possible that that’s an option.

    However, the upgrade product on Amazon is the DVD with associated postage ($13) and shipping time — I can’t purchase the *download* from Amazon, only Adobe (or illegally, which I won’t do).


  6. It’s the same weird thing here in Germany, btw…

  7. UK Price of Captivate 5.5, From:

    Adobe Captivate 5.5
    Go beyond presentations and create interactive eLearning without programming.
    Starting at £725.89 £631.21 ex. VAT

  8. Thanks Stephen. Those prices are for volume licensing. From http://www.xe.com on 24 January 2012, full Captivate 5.5 at 725 GBP is US$1130 and 631 GBP is US$982. That website has the upgrade price as 135 GBP, which is US$210.

    However, for the single license situation (http://www.adobe.com/uk/products/captivate.html), the Captivate 5.5 prices are:
    * Upgrade: 143 GBP (which is US$222)
    * Full: I couldn’t find the full price. The FAQ just had a link to the Adobe Store and that took me to the Australian store.

    And the single license eLearning Suite upgrade is 380 GBP (US$591)

    So it looks like the UK prices are way more than the US prices too, but less than the Australian prices.


  9. Thanks – I used to be a re-seller but Adobe always gave much smaller discounts than other vendors. Their behaviour in removing functions in Acrobat 6 upgrade from the existing ones in v5 annoyed me the most but the upgrade v9 to v10 has little added value too.

  10. Adobe’s pricing policy is a puzzle to us in the UK as well. I see Stephen has already posted the prices. I’ve heard many excuses ranging from taxation to reseller profit margins and support. I’ve even spoken to Adobe staff about this but there is only a collective shrug of the shoulders. Obviously I’m not talking to the right people but I do know that they have passed on our comments. To be fair to them this is not just a problem with their TechComm or e-Learning products. It is the same across their whole product suite. If we want to get this changed we’d need to direct our comments to those with influence in this arena.

  11. Hi Colum

    Yes, I agree this price gouging is across all Adobe products. As you know, I featured Captivate as it’s software I use and because I also had a point of comparison with my post from 2008, which also featured Captivate upgrade pricing.

    The biggest problem is finding out who has influence in this arena…


  12. […] blog posts about Adobe’s pricing for their products in various markets around the world (see https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/adobe-pricing-sucks/ and https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2008/07/12/how-do-they-get-away-with-it/, and some recent […]

  13. About Adobe pricing: I’ve bought Ligthroom3 at a “great discount” in the Adobe store just to find out that they sell the new version LR4 at an even lower price than that LR3 with the “great discount” five weeks later. This leaves me as a customer feeling screwed by Adobe, and LR3 will remain the first and the last Adobe product I’ll ever purchase. They might have made a couple of bucks out of me, but when the time comes then I’ll look for another product rather than paying for an Adobe upgrade.

  14. You should submit this to the Australian parliamentary inquiry that’s happening about this. Hopefully soon the ACCC will stop this kind of gouging from happening and we’ll soon get fair(er) prices for imports.

    I’ve tried to get CS6 Design and Web Premium through Amazon several times. They said they couldn’t ship to my address. Surely I should have the right to buy a product from wherever I want.

  15. Hi Min

    Have already done so!


  16. I’m tempted to use a service like priceusa.com.au to purchase adobe cs6 standard from Amazon but I’m concerned the registration of the product will fail as I’m in Australia, not sure if they have geolocation region limitations?

  17. My experience from purchasing via a friend in the US and getting her to ship the product to me, and a colleague’s experience from purchasing via an independent source in the US is that the registration hasn’t been restricted geographically.

    However, the most recent of those experiences is from a few months ago, so I can’t guarantee that it’s the case now.


  18. Thanks for that Rhona. I just rang Adobe, and they told me I would have to fill out their transfer of license form if someone other than myself purchased it overseas. Contemplating using bongous.com which would enable me to purchase under my name with a US address. The only issue then would be the address would be different: US (for Purchase) and AUS (for registration). But surely that wouldn’t prevent registration?

    Just a lot of money if things done go right! But a lot more to just purchase in Australia.

    Just ridiculous as our dollar is worth more than theirs at the moment too, yet were paying double! Have to give props to Apple as Mountain Lion was $20AU. which would have to be pretty close, if not the same price for US customers.

  19. Never heard of a ‘transfer of license’ form! My friend purchased from Amazon and shipped the DVD to me; I registered it with no problems. She didn’t even open the packet.

  20. Really? Thats good to hear.
    To be honest I hope I never have to call Adobe again! It took me about 5 minutes of holding the line before I talked to anyone, then I had to speak with an overseas call center (is it that hard for big companies to give you someone from your own culture/nation with your own language nuances to talk to).

  21. Hey Rhonda, one other question. Were the items your friend sent you over a $1000? Did you have to go through this process and if so how much did it end up costing? http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page5653.asp#GoodswithadeclaredorassessedvalueoverA1000

  22. No. The product I bought was an upgrade and was less than $500, so I didn’t have the GST to contend with. Even if you get a US friend to send it, if it’s over $1000 you will be subject to GST, so make sure you factor that into the cost.

  23. Thanks! :-)

  24. I think the article above is only factoring in the sale tax in Australia. Adobe’s main head quarters is here in the US, in SanJose, California. I think the taxes they are refering to are all the US taxes that have to be paid when a company here ships there products overseas. Even with software that is being produced overseas such as Adobes Melbourne facility. A US cmpany has to pay additional US taxes for one having a facility there, two having employees there, three making products there, then there are the taxes the Australian government charges for the same things, all before your GST 10% tax. US sales tax changes based on where you are at. Currently California has a base sales tax of 7.75% with add-ons depending on the city you live in.

  25. Hi Jarred

    Unfortunately taxes are only a small part of the story. They don’t account for almost double the prices. And taxes are reasonably transparent (see this submission by Australian Customs on IT/software taxes and duties to the current Australian government inquiry into IT pricing: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=ic/itpricing/subs/sub088.pdf).

    If taxes were the main issue, then how come companies like Techsmith (http://www.techsmith.com), which makes products like Camtasia, SnagIt etc., can sell them at the same price to everyone, no matter where they live?

    And ask any ex-employee of Adobe — you’ll find that many of their jobs, like product development, programming, and other functions, have been offshored to places like India, where wages are much lower than for comparable positions in the US. Thus the argument about taxes on facilities, employees, etc. doesn’t stand up.

    Adobe is not alone in this price gouging — gaming companies, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, etc. also have high prices for Australian consumers (and perhaps for other non-US consumers, though I can’t speak for them). (Read some of the submissions to the Australian government inquiry to see plenty of examples: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=ic/itpricing/subs.htm including a comprehensive one of pricing differentials from the Australian Treasury: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=ic/itpricing/subs/sub085.pdf)

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