EU investigates iTunes on competition rules

European Union regulators are investigating Apple's iTunes online music store for possible violation of competition rules, a British newspaper, quoted by an Associated Press report, said.

The Associated Press report quoted a Financial Times news article as saying that Apple and several major music companies had been sent a 'statement of objections' alleging that the deals underpinning the sale of music through iTunes in Europe might violate competition rules.

The newspaper said the European Commission had sent a letter outlining the accusations to Apple and 'major record companies' including Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music and EMI Group.

The newspaper said the charges centered on the fact that, in Europe, iTunes prohibits users in one country from downloading music from a Web site intended to serve another.

It quoted a spokesman for EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes as saying that Apple's agreements restricted music sales 'in the sense that consumers can only buy music from the iTunes store in their country of residence,'  a possible violation of the EU's rules against restrictive business practices.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said the company wanted to operate a single store for all of Europe, but music labels and publishers said there were limits to the rights that could they could grant to Apple, the report said.