December 3, 2004 3:52 pm

Apple referred to Brussels over iTunes pricing

A complaint that Apple is charging too much for its music downloading service in the UK was referred to the European Commission.

Which, the UK consumer body, contacted the Office of Fair Trading in September asking it to investigate how music is licensed to online music companies in the single market. On Friday the OFT said it had now passed the complaint on to Brussels.

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Which said Apple’s iTunes downloading service charged UK customers 20 per cent more than its French and German customers, and barred customers in the UK from logging on to the French and German sites to get a cheaper deal.

UK music fans pay 79p per track, while for their European counterparts the price is 99 cents, equivalent to 68p.

’UK consumers are getting a raw deal from Apple. The online music market is a huge growth area; the Single Market should work the same in this market as in others,” said Phil Evans, Which’s principal policy adviser.

On Friday the OFT said: “The OFT has decided that the European Commission is better placed to consider this matter, in particular as Apple iTunes operates in more than three EC member states.

”In addition, the OFT considers that the European Commission is in a better position fully to address the issues raised by Which in the context of wider single market issues relating to how the online exploitation of music is licensed across Europe.”

Apple, the pioneer and leader in global online music sales, did not comment on Friday but have argued in the past that pricing was based on the underlying economic model of each country.

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