European Commission forces iTunes to lower UK prices

LONDON - UK music fans will pay less for iTunes downloads within six months, after the European Commission ruled it was unlawful for Apple to charge more in Britain than it does in Europe.

Consumers using Apple's iTunes service currently pay nearly 10% more for downloads than their European counterparts. However, the European Commission has now ruled that Britons should be paying the same amount as people on the continent.

Under current laws, the price of downloads is determined by the consumer proving their country of residence through their bank details, but it is now expected UK prices for music file downloads will move in line with European prices within six months.

*An iTunes user in Germany or France would expect to pay €0.99 for a single download track, while British users currently pay 79p.*

The decision ends the European Commission's anti-trust action against Apple, which was set up to investigate allegations of unfair pricing for UK citizens using the iTunes service.

However, the ruling does not affect Apple's iTunes pricing policy in other countries, or rival companies that also have a tiered payment system for downloads.

Consumer watchdog Which? has welcomed the European Commission's ruling, but criticised it for not affecting other territories.

Chris Warner, lawyer at Which?, said: "We complained about Apple's price discrimination back in 2004, so we're glad they've finally agreed to give British music lovers a fair deal.

"We hope other internet companies, including online music companies, will follow Apple's lead and match UK prices in continental Europe."

Neelie Kroes, European Union competition commissioner, said: "The commission is very much in favour of solutions which allow consumers to benefit from a truly single market for music downloads."

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