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English beat: Consumer group raps iTunes pricing

London watchdog drops a dime on Apple, saying Brits pay more per track than the French and Germans.

A consumers group has asked the United Kingdom's Office of Fair Trading to investigate Apple Computer, claiming the company's iTunes song shop is overcharging British users.

The London-based Consumers' Association has a beef with Apple because of the company's pricing structure in Europe. To download one track costs a U.K. consumer 79 pence ($1.40). In France and Germany, it's 99 eurocents ($1.20). This means that a shopper in the United Kingdom pays more for every track.

Phil Evans of the Consumers' Association said the group had reported Apple to the Office of Fair Trading on grounds that the company appears to be practicing an anticompetitive and discriminatory pricing structure.

The group's complaint may hold water under European Union law, which stipulates that U.K. shoppers should be able to enjoy the same advantages as their European counterparts. However, a shopper wanting to buy an iTunes track with a U.K. credit card can't use the French or German service.

Apple responded that the price structure is based on market influence. "The underlying economic model in each country has an impact on how we price our track downloads," Apple said in a statement. "That's not unusual, look at the price of CDs in the U.S. versus the U.K. We believe the real comparison to be made is with the price of other track downloads in the U.K."

Jo Best of Silicon.com reported from London.