Which? has welcomed news that the European Commission has opened an antitrust probe into Apple’s iTunes and the way it sells music online.
The move follows a complaint Which? made to the Office of Fair Trading in 2004 and a subsequent complaint to the European Commission (EC).
The Commission has now said consumers are ‘restricted in their choice of where to buy music’, as well as what music was available and at what price, due to the agreements iTunes had with the record labels.
People can only download singles or albums from the iTunes store in their country of residence, the commission said.
It said in a statement: ‘Consumers are thus restricted in their choice of where to buy music and consequently what music is available, and at what price.
‘For example, in order to buy a music download from the iTunes’ Belgian online store a consumer must use a credit card issued by a bank with an address in Belgium.’
The Commission said Apple had two months to answer questions in a letter it had sent to the company.
Research by Which? in 2004 found that UK users paid 79p to download a song compared with 66p in France and Germany.
Which? Principal Economist Alena Kozakova said: ‘This investigation proves that iTunes is over charging its UK customers, who are paying substantially more for their music. The announcement means that companies can no longer hide behind intellectual property rights to restrict competition for consumers.
‘It is fantastic news that the European Commission is launching this formal investigation into iTunes. UK consumers should benefit from the single market as other citizens of member states do.’
Apple said on Monday that it wanted to operate a single store for all of Europe, but music labels and publishers said there were limits to the rights that could they could grant to Apple.
A spokesman added: ‘We don’t believe Apple did anything to violate EU law. We will continue to work with the EU to resolve this matter.’