LONDON Apple Computer Inc. and its iTunes shop in Norway have until June 21 to change the terms of conditions for the download of files, having been found to have broken local consumer protection law in a number of ways.
If Apple does not make its songs playable on all music devices by June 21, it faces fines which would then be followed by court action. And Apple is facing similar moves in other countries across Europe, according to reports.
The Consumer Council of Norway filed an original complaint against iTunes Music Store on Jan. 25 2006 and on June 6, was told it had won support for almost all its complaints. The legal decision agrees that the terms of agreement demanded by iTunes are unreasonable with respect to Section 9a of the Norwegian Marketing Control Act.
The key findings are: that iTunes has tried to impose English law on the contract; that iTunes digital rights management restricts the use of iTunes to Apple's iPod, and that iTunes reserves the right to change unilaterally consumers' rights to access material already purchased. The Ombudsman also alleged that Apple and iTunes had illegally sought to divide the European market by country and foster price differentials.
It has been alleged that iTunes' approach in Europe has been in breach of a number of European countries' laws.
"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.
"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.