While in Washington DC last month I priced a fully-specced 13in MacBook Pro retina with upgraded processor, 16GB of memory and a 1TB SSD. This is the machine I am likely to be going for when I decide on a new computer later this year. In the USA this specification costs $2,699 before tax as you see from the screenshot. Even with, say, 6% added at the till it is still only $2,860, equivalent to around £1,685. As you can also see, the same computer bought in London will cost £2,239 or $3,825.
This is a startling difference of over $1,000. But, to be fair, we need to strip out sales tax--which is none of Apple's concern--and compare the net UK price of £1,865 with the US equivalent, before sales tax, of £1,578 ($2,699). That's a more reasonable difference of £287. and one, I suppose, we have to live with.
There are other factors at play. Apple, in common with all organisations, has to fix a price list and stick with it for many months. During that time a company such as Apple copes with currency fluctuations, either taking the loss or the added profit as the exchange rates change. This year, for instance, the pound is on a roll and we get a many more dollars for our pounds. As a result, goods in American stores now appear cheaper to us.
Earlier this year the pound was trading a good ten cents lower. So if we used a conversion factor of, say, $1.61 the above price comparisons (before tax) would be £1,578 to £1,676, a smaller difference of only £98.
The only thing you can say with certainty is that it is ultimately cheaper to shop in the USA because of the huge difference in sales tax between the continents. Some people, not me I would add, are prepared to break the law and attempt to smuggle in a large-value item such as a MacBook Pro in order to save a chunk of change. However, this is potentially a mug's game because of the clear risk of confiscation. Often it isn't just a matter of saying sorry and paying the tax, there will be penalties to pay and you could lose your computer.
So, my final conclusion is that if the tax difference is taken into account, then perhaps we are not getting such a bad deal after all. If we don't like the tax it is our democratic right to elect a government that will slash taxes, whether direct or indirect, because this is the best way to stimulate growth.
If you want to raise your blood pressure and marvel at rip-off tech, where better to read all about it than here in the Daily Mail.