Today the European Union (EU) announced that an investigation of Apple is underway for antitrust violations related to the pricing of music sold through the iTunes store.
What's happened so far is that the European Commission (EC) has issued Apple with a statement of objections to Apple. This statement lays out how Apple, along with four major recording companies, are violating EU antitrust laws.
The antitrust allegations center around how Apple charges a different price in the iTunes store for the same content across different countries. This action, according to the EU, unfairly penalizes consumers in countries where the content is more expensive. For example, in the US a track on iTunes costs $0.99, but throughout the Eurozone, a track sets you back €0.99, while in the UK a track costs £0.79. However, $0.99 converts out to roughly €0.74 and £0.50 respectively.
Here are a couple of extracts from a memo issued by the EC:
The European Commission can confirm that it has sent a Statement of Objections to major record companies and Apple in relation to agreements between each record company and Apple that restrict music sales.
Consumers can only buy music from the iTunes on-line store in their country of residence. Consumers are thus restricted in their choice of where to buy music, and consequently what music is available, and at what price.
The EU and the EC are perfectly capable of making mountains out of molehills, but I don't see this issue giving Apple much of a headache. After all, it's not Apple that set pricing, but the record companies.
Now if the EC really wanted something to get its teeth into, it should take a look at the tightly locked iPod/iTunes ecosystem that Apple fosters. That would make for a far more interesting case and I think that Apple knows this - which is why they want to appear to embrace the new "in support of a DRM-free world" image.