Microsoft, on Monday lost it’s three year long appeal case (full extremely long document can be read here) against the EU anti-trust order which was imposed in 2004. The order will make the enormous fish pay a record fine of $613 Million, sell a version of Windows which does not include its media player, and force them to share code relevant for allowing devices of different operating systems to communicate with Windows devices.
This is a landmark case for the European Commission (EC) who seems to be actively pursuing large US companies with large market share in their respective fields, and it appears that Apple is next on the EC’s radar.
Apple and some of its music partners are currently facing investigation by the European anti-trust officials for the pricing of items in the iTunes store. The commission wants to discover the reasons for different pricing in different territories of the European Union (for people who aren’t in Europe, you can only purchase from the country which your credit/debit card address is located. Apple also has different prices in the different stores). This is no joke for Apple as the EC has power to fine a company up to 10% of there worldwide revenue.
Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs said recently, “We think prices should be the same. We think anybody in Europe should buy off any store.” but then contradicting this a Reuters report is claiming an Apple spokesman said, “there is nothing in it’s contract with Universal obliging it to operate national stores or to set a higher price in countries such as Britain”, so what’s stopping Mr Jobs from doing what he says he wants to do?
Many analysts and the commission believe the reason Apple takes this position is due to the record labels putting pressure on the company to operate the variable pricing structure in different EU countries. The trouble is it contradicts and is possibly in violation of the anti-trust laws which operate in the EU. The record labels claim they charge different rates to cover different royalty payment rates which are overseen by different agencies depending on the country and are negotiated on a country by country basis.
I live in the UK and feel it would be much better for consumers if we had one European iTunes store from which we could all purchase. It would be a lot easier for everyone, as content is not consistent along with the pricing.