Apple confirms iTunes prices will be same across Europe

Within the next 6 months, Apple is to standardise iTunes music prices across Europe.

In a statement released this morning, the computing giant said that it is to lower UK iTunes prices to match the already standardised pricing on iTunes across Europe in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain.

The move comes after a lengthy EC investigation into antitrust or competitions violations across Europe after UK customers were found to be paying more for iTunes downloads than their compatriots across the Channel, and that they could only buy music from the (pricier) UK store.

The case was first raised over 2 years ago, when the British consumer association Which? complained that iTunes stores in France and Germany charged 99 euro cents ($1.45), while Britons must pay 79 pence ($1.56), instead of letting all Europeans buy at one store.

In April, the EC said that it was to launch an inquiry.

European Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said at the time that consumers were "restricted in their choice of where to buy music and consequently what music is available, and at what price".

The charges centre on the fact that iTunes prevented users in one country from downloading from one of their websites in another European Union country.

The Commission sent Apple a "statement of objections" alleging that its agreements with record labels (which was believed to be behind the pricing differentials) "contain territorial sales restrictions which violate" EU competition rules.

If the ruling went against it, Apple faced fines of as much as 10% of its worldwide annual revenue.

Apple, at the launch of the inquiry, remained bullish and released a statement in which it denied any wrongdoing.

"We don't believe Apple did anything to violate EU law", the company said.

It continued that while it "always wanted to operate a single, pan-European iTunes store accessible by anyone from any member state", it was "advised by the music labels and publishers that there were certain legal limits to the rights" they could be granted.

However, it has now reversed its policy and UK customers will pay the same for their iTunes downloads as those living in other EU countries. This means that the price of an iTunes track will fall from 79p to approximately 66p by the summer.

In its statement announcing the move this morning, Apple continued to point the finger at the record companies stating: "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".

And it gave this warning: "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".

Steve Jobs concluded: "This is an important step towards a pan-European marketplace for music. We hope every major record label will take a pan-European view of pricing".

The European Union competition regulator has now closed the case.