September 27, 2006

Nordic Officials Take Up iTunes Dispute

OSLO, Norway (AP) - Nordic consumer regulators and Apple Computer Inc. moved closer to solving a dispute over iTunes music downloads in their first face-to-face meeting this week, the leader of the Nordic effort said Wednesday.

Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman Bjoern Erik Thon said the goal of Monday's meeting with Apple representatives from the United States, Britain and Belgium was to discuss ways to resolve the dispute other than legal action.

"I am sure whatever result we reach will be closely watched internationally," Thon said. "There has been important movement in the case."

Consumer ombudsmen from Norway, Sweden and Finland wrote to Apple in June to claim that its policy of making songs exclusively compatible with its iPod, among other restrictions, violate Scandinavian law.

The regulators met in Iceland last month to discuss a 50-page response from the Cupertino, Calif.-based company, which dominates the market for portable music players. Apple defended its right to code iTunes Music Store songs so they can be played only on iPods.

The Nordic regulators also opposed some of iTunes' Internet contract terms, such as its contention that British law applies. Thon said companies in Norway serving the nation's consumers cannot apply another country's laws.

The regulators also objected to a clause in the same contract giving iTunes the right to change terms of purchase without notice, even after a sale. Thon said that issue has now been resolved so that "that terms of purchase cannot be changed for purchases that have already been made, only for future ones."

"I would not close the door on bringing the case to the Market Council, but we are looking for other ways," Thon said. The council has the legal authority to ban unlawful marketing or contract terms.

In a written statement, Apple said it "is working to address the concerns we've heard from several agencies in Europe, and we hope to resolve these issues as quickly as possible."