COMMENT: Is iTunes UK a rip-off?

A whopping 79% of Pocket-lint readers believes that iTunes is a "rip-off" in the UK where the average price is 79p a track, versus 99 cents in America and the same in euro cents in Europe.

The result of our most recent poll, it seems that many of you think there is an unfair discrepancy between the price that consumers pay for Apple downloads in the UK and that which is paid in the States, or elsewhere in the EU.

Perhaps increasing this perception, Apple recently u-turned on its previous commitment to reduce the cost of iTunes downloads in the UK to the same as that which is paid in the EU, stating that the exchange rate had levelled the pricing for them.

This is of particular topical interest at the moment if you consider the new agreement between the top six UK ISPs and the record industry which could see sanctions imposed on net users for shunning paid-for sites and downloading music for free via illegal means.

So, not only are British consumers seen to be paying over the odds for legal music, but are also going to be punished if they seek out other sources for downloading their tunes.

What is interesting to consider is, if Apple reduced the price of downloads in the UK, would there be a fall in the numbers of consumers downloading illegally?

The ISP/BPI agreement commits the web firms to develop legal music services as an alternative to file-sharing sites, something Sky took a step towards this week with their announcement of an unlimited music service with Universal Music that will launch soon, although pricing is to be confirmed.

iTunes is not the only music download store online, but it is the biggest, and this belief that it treats UK consumers unfairly by charging them more (a belief that over three-quarters of Pocket-lint readers subscribe to) will only add to the "well, why shouldn't I?" attitude that makes file-sharing seem a reasonable option.

As well as looking to the ISPs to police the net, the record industry should be looking to making legal downloads cheaper - and crucially, insist on fair international pricing polices. Price is always going to be a key factor - especially in today's "cash conscious" economy.