NEWS: Expensive iTunes accused of breaking European law

Apple has been courting controversy this week, receiving criticism on several fronts about its service to iTunes users, as well as early adopters of Apple TV.

The European Commission (EC) is currently questioning Apple, along with several major record labels, as to why we in the UK pay more for music bought from the iTunes Music store than anyone else in Europe. While a single track typically costs 79 pence in the UK, the same song will set any other European citizen back 99 cents - or 0.99 Euros - which equates to around 68p at current exchange rates. That's a price difference of 18 per cent.

The investigation is a response to a complaint to the Office Of Fair Trading, and subsequently to the European Commission, which alleges that the current Apple pricing system breaks European law.

Apple's policy works by forcing British users to buy from the British store: users trying to by music from, say, the German iTunes store are prevented from doing so by the company's credit card registration system.

The European Commission's 'statement of objection' is forcing Apple to defend its pricing policy, and alleges that the site's national restrictions break European rules preventing restrictive business practices.

And if that wasn't enough, the good news that Apple started selling DRM-free music on the iTunes store has been tempered somewhat by the revelation that the DRM-free files contain the name and email address of the person who bought them. Apple has remained tight-lipped about the reason for this, prompting accusations that it is a 'backdoor' anti-piracy measure.

In addition, the news that Apple was launching a second-generation Apple TV so soon after the first version has been criticised by early adopters. Some users have complained that the new 160GB unit makes their recently purchased 40GB version look like very poor value.

In better news for Apple, the American release of the much-awaited iPhone has been set for June 29th, increasing chances that we in the UK will see the new music player/mobile phone hybrid before the end of the year.

Apple's prospects for the European iPhone release have also been boosted by rumours that Microsoft's iPod rival, the Zune, will not be available in the UK until 2008. The Zune has struggled to find success in the U.S., prompting the postponment of the European launch.

Robbie Bach, the President of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division, described the Zune's 10 percent market share in the US as "not an overwhelming start." However, at the time of writing, Microsoft is refusing to rule out a 2007 release.