Consumer watchdog the Consumers' Association (CA) has today written to the UK office of Fair Trading (OFT), complaining that UK digital music shoppers are being ripped-off.

The Association wants to: "Highlight the possible anti-competitive practice of the music download service, iTunes."

The complaint relates to how much Apple charges UK iTunes customers for tracks - 79p, approximately 1.2 Euros. But Apple's French and German customers are charged just 0.99 Euros - a 20 per cent difference for an identical service.

Apple 'breaks EU law' - CA

The Consumer's Association press release, states: "Under European law UK consumers are supposed to enjoy the same benefits of the single market as other citizens of member states.

"However, the iTunes service is set up in a way that prevents UK consumers from taking advantage of the cheaper download service offered to the French and Germans - UK consumers need to have a registered address and payment mechanisms in France or Germany to access the service or pay the higher price charged in the UK."

The OFT is being asked to investigate whether the way the service practices price discrimination based on residence serves to deny access to the benefit of a single market. "That the iTunes system allows market abuse, going against the principles of the single market"

OFT urged to act against Apple

The Association approached Apple to ask about this. Apple replied that: "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."

In response, the CA submitted its complaint to the OFT, asking that it investigate this possible breach of competition law, and acting to protect consumers if required.

The CA leader Phil Evans, said: "There appears to be considerable evidence that the iTunes set up is prejudiced against the UK public and distorts the very basis of the single market. If the OFT agrees it will be another example of the rip-off culture that the British public are often victims of."