UK regulator the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has not initiated an investigation into Apple's iTunes UK pricing.

The Consumer's Association (CA) yesterday filed a complaint with the OFT, alleging that Apple is "ripping-off" UK music buyers.

An OFT spokesperson this morning told Macworld UK: "We have received that letter (from the CA). We are aware of this and it's an issue we are monitoring." The OFT is "considering" its position. "We look at each case on its merits", she said.

The CA believes that because Apple charges UK consumers 79p (around 1.15 Euros), but charges French and German users 0.99 Euros, the company is acting against the interests of the European market.

Free market "rip-off", CA thunders

"The iTunes system allows market abuse, going against the principles of the single market," CA spokesman, Phil Evans, told Macworld UK. "Consumers should be able to enjoy the same pricing benefits across member states."

In its defence, Apple has said: "The underlying economic model in each country has an impact on how we price our track downloads. That's not unusual, look at the price of CDs in the US versus the UK. We believe the real comparison to be made is with the price of other track downloads in the UK."

UK digital music distributor Wippit charges from 29p per track in MP3 format, while arch-rival Napster charges £1.19. OD2-drives services charge from 75p each track.

Digital marketplace evolution

Evans explained the CA's position: "Legally, the way the OFT works, it does not care about the smaller operators, it cares about those who dominate - and influence the market. Apple is the dominant UK digital download service, or says it is, and that is why we complained to the OFT, because a dominant player is abusing the European market."

He added: "It's all about consumers, and also about the future of the digital market place," Evans said. "We are told that free trade is good, yet despite this, when it's applied, the consumer is ripped-off. That's not the dream we signed-up for."

The application of agreed European market principles on the Internet is a cause of concern for the OFT, which said: "We are monitoring this. We are watching matters in the electronic marketplace closely."