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Tuesday, January 08, 2008, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

Apple set to resolve EU iTunes case

Apple will soon announce steps to resolve European Commission charges that its iTunes stores broke European Union rules by setting prices country by country in Europe, Reuters is reporting.

Citing people familiar with the situation, the media outlet on Tuesday said an announcement could come as early as this evening, or by Thursday at the latest.

Following the concessions on Apple's behalf, the European Union competition regulator will reportedly announce that it is closing the long-running case involving the pricing of online sales of music and video used in the Cupertino-based company's European digital download services.

Back in April, the European Commission formally charged Apple and the four major record labels with anti-competitive practices in the deals that form the backbone of European iTunes stores.

At the heart of the complaint was the nationalized approach to the online music shops, which are restricted only to buyers who hold accounts in given countries.

Under the model, shoppers are often forced to buy only from their home store, preventing them from earning the best rate. British shoppers are particularly hurt by this, the European Commission said at the time, as the 79p song downloads were the most expensive across the whole region.

For its part, Apple claims to have been pressured into using only localized stores and denies that it had stepped outside legal bounds when it accepted the terms that led to today's fragmented iTunes marketplace.

"Apple has always wanted to operate a single, pan-European iTunes store, accessible by anyone from any member state," a company spokesman said. "But we were advised by the music labels and publishers that there were certain legal limits to the rights they could grant us. 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."

Spokespeople for Apple and the four major record labels had no comment on the latest report.