European Commission to probe charge that Apple is ‘ripping off’ UK iTunes Music Store customers

“A complaint that Apple’s music download service is “ripping off” UK customers was referred to the European Commission today. The consumer body “Which?” wrote to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in September, asking it to investigate why prices for using the iTunes service are 20% higher in the UK than in France and Germany. The OFT, the competition watchdog in the UK, has now asked the European Commission to look into the matter,” The Evening Standard reports.

“Phil Evans, principal policy adviser at “Which?,” formerly the Consumers’ Association, said: ‘UK consumers are getting a raw deal from Apple.’ It costs UK music fans 79p (120 euro cents) to download one track, yet in France and Germany the price is just 99 euro cents (68p),” The Evening Standard reports.

“The OFT said in a statement: ”Which?’ complained to the OFT under the Competition Act 1998 that Apple’s iTunes service discriminated on price according to the user’s country of residence and that UK users were unable to benefit from cheaper prices charged on other European iTunes sites, as access to sites serving other countries was barred to non-residents. 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.’ No one from Apple was initially available to comment,” The Evening Standard reports.

Full article here.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
UK’s Office of Fair Trading investigates Apple’s iTunes for ‘anti-competitive practices’ – September 15, 2004


  1. Here’s the problem. The music labels aren’t a part of the EU (for obvious reasons) and the EU apparently hasn’t dictated licensing terms across the board. Thus, different licensing agreements had to be made in the UK vs. Germany and France. Simple as that. Don’t yell at Apple for this one. Yell at the music labels.

  2. I’m guessing the labels charge different prices in different countries , also VAT levels vary country to country . There is also the exchange rate betweent the sterling and the euro , which varies on a day to day basis .

    It will be interesting to see if the european commision will want to open this can of worms .

  3. Afraid it does have merit – Apple charges more in the UK than elsewhere in Europe and blocks UK residents from purchasing songs from the European stores when we have a free market here and you are not supposed to block the free movement of goods and services within the EU.

    It would be like Apple telling California residents that the have to pay more for iTunes and that they cannot by from a cheaper iTunes store in say New York, were iTunes local to each state.

  4. I do not live in the UK, but I would bet that the reason it cost more is due to licensing and taxes. It is most likely NOT that Apple is trying to rake its customers over the coals.

    The Dude abides.

  5. Benn,
    Are the taxes and costs of licensing the same in the UK as they are across Europe? If so, then there is a case…. if not… then it is justifiable. Apple should have a right to claim the same profit in the UK as it does other parts of Europe. If the costs of licensing and taxation are high enough to force Apple to raise the price, then that is what was needed.

    I bet that Apple would have liked to have made it the same price across the board in Europe, but then either Apple would lose money (or profit) or they would over-charge the rest of Europe.

    The Dude abides.

  6. Joel..

    Yours sounds like the voice of reason, here… and I would imagine you are correct…
    It seems that whenever someone is the top dog at something… there will always be some “bottom-feeders” trying to take a swipe at them…

    I gotta think that when negociations are in progress, everything is taken into consideration, including the price structure… and Im quite sure His Steveness wants to be competitive, and not price himself out of the market..

  7. Of course Apple’s picking on the UK customers now, just because the Brits didn’t wanted to get involved with the euro as their leading currency.
    They just wanted to stick with their good ol’ pound and now they are confused about the pricedifferences.

  8. I bet “Which?” was paid by Microsoft or Napster to get the investigation going. Maybe this will get a bigger issue going … price fixing or collusion by the record companies over there.

    You gotta love conspiracies. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

  9. If iTMS is pan-European, Apple must allow me to either a) buy a song from iTMS France, Spain etc., or b) offer the same pricing across all territories. To win this case, Apple need to prove that iTMS UK is a different company to e.g. iTMS France. Does anyone know the setup of iTMS across the EU? Is it run on a franchise basis, effectively creating individual companies for each country? If so, I don’t see how the EU can have a problem. If not, then Apple will have to cut it’s UK pricing to match that in the Eurozone, which would finish the UK iTMS for good.

  10. We pay more for everything, not just music. And it’s completely ridiculous to single Apple out for this… what about the cost of CD’s from brick & mortar stores? �14.99 for a new album – what a rip-off. Yet the average British customer just accepts it, because we are powerless to do anything about it.

    It costs more to live in England, end of story.

    Fuel, food, energy, music, practically everything costs more in the UK.

  11. UK speaking.. 1) agree with joel on licensing issues. Music producers/distributors might have the real problem if it turns out they are charging Apple differently within the EU.. and 2) funny that the Times recently said Apple only got its UK iTMS market share by undercutting its competitors – as has REAL over the Bandaid song..

    In the UK we normally expect to pay a sterling price that is close to the $ price in the US. Our 79 pence price is the equivalent now of $1.53…!! Which is a welcome change.

    If they just want to clobber Apple they have a problem and should save their efforts. Fine if the want to get deeper in to the morass that is music distribution…

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