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Apple cuts UK iTunes prices

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The European Commission has ended its antitrust investigation into Apple after the computing giant agreed to cut the price UK consumers pay to download music for their iPods.

Apple said it would cut UK prices to bring them into line with the rest of Europe. But it warned record labels:

Apple currently must pay some record labels more to distribute their music in the UK than it pays them to distribute the same music elsewhere in Europe. Apple will reconsider its continuing relationship in the UK with any record label that does not lower its wholesale prices in the UK to the pan-European level within six months.

Consumers pay the same price in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain. European consumers, identified by the address on their credit card, pay 99 Euro cents while UK users pay 79 pence.

A spokesman for Apple could not tell the Reg what level prices would be set at.

The European Commission said it began investigations after a formal complaint from UK consumer group Which?. The Commission said its probe found there were no agreements between Apple and major record labels on how iTunes is run in Europe, so it is ending its investigation.

Competition commissioner 'Steely' Neelie Kroes said: "The Commission is very much in favour of solutions which allow consumers to benefit from a truly Single Market for music downloads."

Which? welcomed the decision and said it hoped it would set a trend for other companies to end "Rip-off Britain" pricing. 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.

The fact they’ll soon be able to download tracks for the same price as European customers will be music to the ears of UK iTunes customers. We hope other internet companies – including online music companies - will follow Apple’s lead and match UK prices to prices in continental Europe.

The pressure group said it would like Apple to allow people to download music from whichever iTunes store they choose.

Apple's statement is here, and the Commission's is here. ®

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