Apple Computer Inc., maker of the ubiquitous iPod media player, was given an ultimatum on Monday to change the song download terms and conditions of its iTunes online download shop, having been found to have broken a local consumer protection law.
The Consumer Council of Norway originally filed a complaint against the iTunes Music Store on January 25, alleging that the iTunes software agreement was unreasonable with respect to Section 9a of the Norwegian Marketing Control Act.
The suit also alleged that Apple and iTunes had illegally sought to divide the European market by country to create price differences.
A trade agreement with a consumer must be balanced, also in the digital sphere. The Consumer Council has seen a trend where terms of agreement, technical blocks and their legal protection have led to a reduction in the rights of consumers and their opportunities to use cultural material, said Torgeir Waterhouse, a senior advisor to the Consumer Council of Norway, in a statement.
The digital rights of consumers have been dictated by the industry for a long time. This decision marks the start of a struggle to recover them, Waterhouse added.
Apple must make its songs playable on all music devices by June 21 or face fines and court action.
The company faces similar suits from other countries across Europe, including Sweeden and Britain. Early last year, the European Union opened investigations into Apple's pricing practices after noting that British users were charged $1.82 per song download while French users were charged $1.25.
The terms, both technical and written ones, are not unique to iTunes. Many other companies employ similar ones. We anticipate that the ombudsman will also pursue these, initially the music shops mentioned in our complaint, he added.
An Apple representative was not immediately available for comment.
Shares of Apple Computer were up $1.33 today, or 1.33% to 58.33 on the NASDAQ stock exchange.