Apple iTunes prices must align with EU market rules

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Apple iTunes prices must align with EU market rules

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After a flourish of enthusiasm from Apple founder Steve Jobs over what he called a digital revolution, an effort to sweeten the music market for consumers has hit a sour note.

iTunes needs further tuning, the European Commission says: Agreements between Apple, the American consumer electronics corporation, and major record companies go against the European Union’s rules prohibiting restrictive business practices. Brussels has sent formal charges, which allege that music sales in Europe are being restricted.

This move by the Commission is not related to a deal announced on Monday under which the record giant EMI agreed to make its music available online without anti-piracy protection.

A Commission spokesman said: “Consumers can only buy music from the iTunes online stores in their country of residence and are therefore restricted in their choice of where to buy music, and consequently what music is available and at what price.”

Apple said it wanted to offer a pan-European store but was hemmed in by legal limits imposed by the music companies.

The Commission’s probe grew out of complaints that iTunes purchasers in France and Germany paid 99 euro cents for each song they download, while the price in Britain is the equivalent of 1.17 euros.

A Statement of Objections sent to Apple and unidentified record companies presses them to reflect on harmonising in the EU’s single market.

The world majors are generally taken to be Vivendi Universal, Sony, EMI and Warner.