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Apple blocks cheaper UK iPod sales

Grey skies loom over 'grey' iPods

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Apple is threatening legal action against 11 UK e-tailers unless they stop selling iPods imported from outside the UK.

The computer giant has complained to a number of well-known online retailers which were buying iPods in the US – where they sell for £15 less than the UK– and then selling them at a knocked-down price to customers in Blighty.

The undertakings issued by London law firm Bird & Bird and seen by The Register, demand e-tailers stop selling what it described as “Grey iPods” anywhere in Europe.

The Cupertino-based firm also threatened to bring legal action against any e-tailer outfit that “infringes” Apple’s rights.

It told the 11 UK e-tailers that they shouldn't "in future import into the EEA [European Economic Area] offer, sell or otherwise put on the market in the EEA any products bearing the rights (save where such products have been first put on the market in the EEA by Apple itself or with Apple’s express consent) or assist any other to do so”.

Apple also requested that the details of suppliers who provided the “Grey iPods” be handed over to the firm. Companies which have settled are also expected to pay a contribution to Apple’s legal expenses and damages.

Grey markets exist where companies maintain different prices for different regions.

The company’s apparent clampdown was slammed by one e-tailer who asked to remain anonymous.

He told The Register that customers were benefiting from the cost-savings made by e-tailers bringing in iPods at a cheaper price. He also accused Apple of "price-fixing the market".

"It's all a bit of a farce really, but no one will take them [Apple] on in the real world. The company is just too big."

A Bird & Bird spokesman told us the firm was unable to comment on details of the undertakings issued because it was a sensitive ongoing legal matter.

We also asked Apple to provide comment on the letters, but it has yet to return our call. ®

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