Apple to cut prices for iTunes music downloads for UK customers


Last updated at 00:03 10 January 2008

Apple has been pressured into cutting the price it charges to UK customers for downloading music singles to bring them into line with Europe.

The technology company, behind the iPod craze, currently charges 79p per download in the UK, while they only cost 74p on the continent.

The company's promise to cut UK prices within six months, comes after a European Commission probe into alleged overpricing by Apple.

But yesterday the Commission said it had found no evidence of agreements between Apple and record labels over the way iTunes was run.

The news comes as it was revealed that the record industry that there was a massive decline in album sales last year.

Experts also believe that plans to legalise the copying of music across different formats could kill off the CD.

The BPI, which represents Britain's music industry, said sales of albums in 2007 had plummeted 10.8 per cent.

Figures show that 16million fewer albums were sold than in 2006.

But the downloading sensation has seen sales of singles boom, with the third biggest year on record, despite the higher prices UK customers have been charged.

The European Commission has welcomed Apple's decision to lower UK prices and said no further action was necessary.

Apple blamed record labels for higher UK prices, saying some of them charged it more to distribute music in the UK than elsewhere in Europe.

The firm has threatened to "reconsider its continuing relationship in the UK" with any record labels who do not adjust charges.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said: "We hope every major record label will take a pan-European view of pricing."

The EC investigation was sparked by consumer group Which? complaining that UK customers were being charged substantially more for iTunes downloads.

There were fears agreements between Apple and major record companies violated EC Treaty rules which ban restrictive business practices.

Apple would have faced a multimillion-pound fine if it had been found in breach of the rules.

But the Commission found no evidence of any such agreements between Apple and the record companies.

Apple verifies its customers' country of residence via their credit card details. They can only buy iTunes from the website for that country.

Depending on currency conversion rates, iTunes downloads in the UK have been nearly 10% more expensive than elsewhere in the eurozone.

Which? lawyer Chris Warner welcomed Apple's announcement, saying: "We complained about Apple's price discrimination back in 2004 - so we're glad they've finally agreed to give British music lovers a fair deal."