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Jobs reaffirms commitment towards pan-Euro iTunes pricing

Speaking at a largely unpublicized iPhone press conference in Germany this morning, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs reiterated his commitment to charging the same price for iTunes downloads across Europe.

"We think prices should be the same," he told the conference attended by Reuters. "We think anybody in Europe should buy off any store."

Simultaneously, lawyers for Apple were defending the company in Brussels, where the European Commission on Wednesday began holding hearings on the non-uniform pricing of songs across the European iTunes music stores.

The Commission's complaint, which dates back to 2005, stems from the fact that iTunes stores in France and Germany charge 99 euro cents ($1.38), while Britons must pay 79 pence ($1.58).

Thus far, the Commission appears to have placed the majority of blame on the record labels rather than Apple. In April, it charged that Vivendi's Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, EMI Group and Warner Music Group were collectively forcing the iPod maker to curtail cross-border access to its digital download service.

According to a Reuters source present at Wednesday's hearing, a representative of Apple said there was "nothing in its contract with Universal obliging it to operate national stores or to set a higher price in countries such as Britain."

Apple, which was represented by iTunes chief Eddy Cue and general counsel Donald Rosenberg, stated that it had made unilateral decisions, in part because doing business in Europe turned out to be more complex than in the United States.

Retuers added that the hearing was originally to have run two days, but EMI and Warner dropped out, so it was abbreviated to one day.

Responding to the original allegations lodged back in April, an Apple spokesman said the company "always wanted to operate a single, pan-European iTunes store" that would be accessible by anyone from any member state.

"But we were advised by the music labels and publishers that there were certain legal limits to the rights they could grant us," the spokesman said. "We do not believe the company did anything to violate EU law, and we will continue to work with the EU to resolve this matter."