The Great Adobe Lightroom ripoff.

Calling out Adobes discriminatory pricing policies.


Well,  here we all are in the global village,  interconnected like never before in history.    We are living in the age of instantaneous global communications,  the internet,  satellites,  live streaming interactive webcams!   An age where commandos can storm a building in Pakistan in the middle of the night and hunt down a fugitive,  whilst the US President and his staff sit in the white house and watch a live video feed,  collected from a tiny in-helmet camera,  with all the immediacy of a first-person shooter video game.    One of the amazing things is that this communications technology is available to just about everyone.

I recall during my childhood where interactive telecommunications meant walking down the street to a public telephone box,  hoping that it hadn’t been vandalized,  putting a coin in the slot,  dialling the number, and hoping that the person that you were calling was home and not already using their phone.   If the person you were calling lived in another city or state…..good luck….and as for calling internationally,  that was virtually unheard of.

So why am I pointing all this out?    Well in addition to sending emails, streaming videos,  etc,  the internet now facilitates international commerce and the distribution of software.   This brings me to the point of this article.

Adobe imaging software

Among the software programs which I (and a whole lot of other folks) use are those developed and distributed by Adobe,  including Photoshop and Photoshop Lightroom.    Let’s be clear at the outset,  these are great programs,  I use them extensively and recommend them to others,  gee,  I’ve even been known to give advice to others on how to get the best out of these programs!   But where Adobe really falls down badly is in the area of international pricing.   To put it bluntly,  Adobe actively and blatantly engages in discrimination based on a customer’s country of domicile.   (I hate using the phrase “Racial Discrimination”….but)

Discriminatory pricing policy

A case in point is the pricing policy for Adobe’s Lightroom version 4 released early this year.    Having used Lightroom 3 and been pleased with it,  I naturally considered upgrading to LR4.   This is when the problem arose.   Adobe advertises all over the internet that this upgrade is available for US$79.   However, this is the price for North American based customers,  elsewhere prices vary with the most obvious discrepancy being for Australian (and New Zealand) customers where the price is over US$100 when the upgrade is done by download.

a message from Adobe
Screw you Australia

“I’m alright Jack, screw you” (A message from Adobe Headquarters?)

Complaints by the score

I am far from being the first Australian customer to grumble about this,  Adobe’s own blog sites are overflowing with complaints.   A posting at   has (when I last checked) 112 comments of which at least 50 are from Aussies disgruntled about the pricing policy.

Another thread,  again on one of Adobe’s own forums  is loaded with complaints. A quick survey of comments includes…

I’ve bought Lightroom since LR2 and upgraded every time despite the stupid Australian pricing policy because I’ve really wanted to support Adobe….Unfortunately Adobe’s absurd policy has continued and now after paying only $123.75 last upgrade the new discounted price will cost me AU$122.38! (not sure why people are saying $104) The price should be $74.83 yet for my extra $50 I still get stupid “US English” and crappy support to boot …….

Whilst I would really like to support the Lightroom team for all their hard work, this time around I can no longer support Adobe as a business and would prefer that they go broke. I’ll hang onto my cash and if I find I can’t live with Lightroom 3 then I’ll simply pirate like everyone else does until Adobe fix their stupid policy


A question from outside the USA: Why do you advertise a price worldwide that is actively prevented to those outside USA? And for a downloaded product! ….it is patently unfair to hike up the price of a downloaded upgrade based on where you live


I used Lightroom 4 beta and found it an improvement over Lightroom 3.   I live in Australia and am very disappointed that upgrade in Australia is over $120 yet upgrade in USA is $79./ The dollars have roughly equal value.   I now am considering not upgrading.   This price structure is unfair


“at Adobe we are listening”. Really???? The unfairness of price differential, and the fact that the price is not “$149″ for those new to LR and “$79″ upgrading as this page states has been pointed out repeatedly (here and elsewhere). Will you face you critics and have a level field for downloaded programs or be honest with your pricing…or just continue to ignore the issue that faces all your international customer base?? Come on do the right thing!!!!


The price for both full version and upgrade in Australia are dearer, yet our exchange rate is better.   (Why can’t) I buy the online download from the US at $79.00?

….. Was almost ready to upgrade for the $USD79 but like many here found the upgrade was over $USD100 because I don’t live in the US….. C’mon this is a downloaded product there is no shipping and no tax. I like LR3 and it does the job well don’t see $100 of reasons to upgrade


So what exactly is the situation for Australian customers wishing to upgrade?   Well if you try to purchase via the US website,  your location is noted and you can’t complete the transaction.  You’ll be directed to the Adobe Australia site,  where you’ll see the pricing as follows:

“Upgrade from A$108.62 inc GST*  A$98.75 ex. GST”   “Save time and GST – choose delivery by electronic download”

For readers outside of Australia,  GST means Goods and Services Tax,  this is an Australian Federal Government tax that is levied at a rate of 10% on most goods and services purchased in Australia. The first price relates to the boxed physical product and hence it attracts the GST,  the second price is an internet download and as such doesn’t attract GST.

Reasons for pricing discrepancy?

So why the price discrepancy?    Well, some thoughts have been put forward on the forums,  but they can readily be dismissed.  They include;

  • –Maybe it’s because of packaging and handling. (Not an issue, we’re talking about an internet download)

  • –Maybe it’s because of taxes. (No it’s not. As a download, it doesn’t attract GST or any other tax. Even if it was imported as a physical product, it wouldn’t attract GST unless its value was in excess of $1000, much to the chagrin of traditional retailers, just ask Gerry Harvey)

  • –Maybe it’s because of foreign exchange rates. (No it’s not. The Australian dollar (at the time of publication) is worth US$1.04. The Australian dollar has been valued higher than the US dollar continuously for the last 2 years or so)

So again we have to ask,  why the price discrepancy?

Adobes response

One of the frustrating things I’ve observed in this whole controversy is the complete lack of response from Adobe on the subject.   Complaint after complaint on Adobe’s own blogs but not a whisper,  not a whimper in response!  Nothing, zero, zilch, nada,  not a sausage!    (checking for a webcam at Adobe headquarters… that a tumbleweed rolling down the corridor?   Hello,  anyone home?   Are they crickets I can hear?)

The price difference is only $25 or so,  so why make a big deal out of it?   Doesn’t sound like a lot of money, does it?   And in the overall context of pursuing a photographic hobby, it’s not.   Let’s see,  I’m using a $3000 camera fitted with a $1500 lens,  mounted on a $500 tripod and I’m processing the files on a $1000 computer with a $1000 backup hard drive,  etc, etc,  which all adds up to… $$$ plenty!


But it’s not the money per se,  it’s the principle and the impression that customers are being ignored or worse still taken advantage of.    Companies such as Adobe agonize over,  and rail against,  software piracy but they themselves behave in such a way as to encourage it.   Treat people like fools and you can expect them to behave like fools.

software supplier
Alternate software retailer!

Bottom Line here:   Please Adobe stop treating your (non US-based) customers like fools and end your discriminatory pricing model.   Software purchases and upgrades are a two-way street,  and so is customer loyalty!

← 3 thoughts on “The Great Adobe Lightroom ripoff.”

Nigel says: 29 April, 2012 at 9:55 pm I feel really ripped-off – brought L3 in mid-December for £150 and now 4 months later they want another £60 to upgrade so I’ve paid £210 for L4 v price in shops of £100 as they have reduced the price. Maybe I was naive buying L3 in December but I didn’t see anything about L4 at the time

KD says: 30 April, 2012 at 12:07 pm That hurts, I think it’s happened to all of us at some point, you buy something be it software, an electrical appliance whatever, and then see the price reduced shortly after. I suspect in recent months Adobe has been forced to reassess (reduce) some of their prices given that there are numerous $2 apps available for ipads and so on now. People’s expectations have changed on price. At least the prices you’re paying in the UK (I believe) are broadly the same as in the USA. Here in Australia (and also New Zealand) we’re being penalised based on geography (and the belief that they can get away with it).

One thought on The Great Adobe Lightroom ripoff.