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EU's Consumer Chief Takes Aim at Apple over iTunes

European Union consumer chief Meglena Kuneva has hit out at Apple's bundling of its popular iPod music players and its iTunes online music store, according to German weekly magazine Focus.

"Do you think it's fine that a CD plays in all CD players but that an iTunes song only plays in an iPod? I don't. Something has to change," EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Kuneva was quoted as saying in a preview of an interview to be published on Monday.

Apple could not be immediately reached for comment on the report.

Norway, a European country that is not in the EU, is battling Apple for the same reason. In January, it said the computer and software giant must liberalise its music download system by Oct. 1 or face legal action.

Pressure on Apple has been building, with consumer rights organisations from Germany, France, Finland and Norway recently agreeing a joint position in their battles against iTunes.

They argue that Apple uses digital rights technology to limit consumers' free use of songs bought on iTunes, including the ability to copy and transfer songs to other users and other MP3 devices besides the Apple iPod.

Both at the national and EU levels, however, the issue has been looked at by consumer agencies rather than the competition watchdogs whose role it is to decide whether a business actitivity violates rules on fair competition.

A Commission spokeswoman in Brussels confirmed Kuneva's comment reported by the magazine but said it represented the commissioner's personal views, not those of the Commission.

"I don't think she was stating it as a definitive policy position. At this stage it is her gut instinct," spokeswoman Helen Kearns said.

Kuneva is leading a review of the eight basic laws which govern cross-border consumer rights.

That review, which has just begun and has so far resulted in a preliminary document raising questions, will eventually lead to proposed revisions of current EU laws, the spokeswoman said.

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