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back to article Apple blocks cheaper UK iPod sales

Apple is threatening legal action against 11 UK e-tailers unless they stop selling iPods imported from outside the UK. The computer giant has complained to a number of well-known online retailers which were buying iPods in the US – where they sell for £15 less than the UK– and then selling them at a knocked-down price to …

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Anonymous Coward

Simple

Just charge the same price for the same product in each market instead of trying to rip consumers off.

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Bob
Boffin

Ownership Rights

It's a longstanding legal principle that if you buy something, you now own it and can resell it. I find it hard to believe that Apple could actually prevail in court in this battle. Even if they do, they won't stop the million-and-one iPond resellers on eBay.

It would seem a more likely outcome would be for Apple to cut off these retailers from its official distribution network. Or maybe they'll find a way to design iPods that don't work on iTunes running from Europe.

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For once, I agree

I'm an Apple "fanboy" (retarded word).

Apple aren't exactly alone in this - every company under the sun does it - but I am of the strongly-held belief that customers should not ever be charged a premium for imported goods, over the bare costs involved in transportation and duties.

We are constantly told that duty and transport etc. are the reason for the differences, but this has time and time again been shown to be simply a lie - particularly, the advent of the internet and purely digital sales demonstrates this, for example in the music world (which I think stems mainly from record companies' greed, and only secondarily from that of retailers).

There is little consumers can do against, essentially, an unwritten agreement between all vendors, and we should be protected by our governments. There can be no excuse for prices which are consistently higher in particular countries, both measured by exchange rates and percentage of average post-tax annual income.

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Happy

@Charlie - Will it stand up in court

I agree with you, but I can't see it as a valid legal defence.

"I put it to you, m'lud, that the accused is in fact a c**t."

Never saw that on an episode of Crown Court.

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g e
Silver badge

Yeah Charlie

They are. Greedy c**ts at that too. If you get the ist of the Apple-related press over the last year it's all about releasing overpriced stuff, raping the early adopters and then dropping the prices; then there's the substandard 'true colour' displays and their browbeating of anyone doing anything they don't approve of.

In fact Apple seem more and more like scientologists with each passing day...

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Globalisation?

So let me get this straight... Companies love globalisation and having huge cross border businesses, but when the consumer attempts to reap the benefits they are told they can't?

It seems Apple want to have their cake and eat it too: benefit from cheap staff and human rights abuses to get products made cheaply, but also to artificially raise prices in some territories for the sake of profit.

What gives?! Stuff like this really makes my blood boil.

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Anonymous Coward

What about eBay?

There's usually plenty of cheap iPods on there, are they going to do anything about the big companies or just jump on the small e-tailers?

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@Charlie Clark

Gotta say, sir - your subject line is most succinct, and I can't help but agree with you.

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Good business

Isn't it just good business to find the middle man with the lowest prices so you can increase your profits?

Apple... get over yourself. A sale is a sale. All those who purchase these gray Ipods are bound to end up purchasing songs on Itunes (until they learn how to beat DRM and hit P2P sites).

If someone isn't allowed to purchase these items from a middle man in the USA, then why should any company in the UK be able to purchase any product from the USA? Making a big deal about the 3rd person is just stupid.

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"price-fixing the market"?

Of course apple is price-fixing the market.

The problem is that they want a highly-desirable product (well, to some people anyway) and they want to earn a ton of cash on it by fixing prices.

The iPhone uses a stupid business model (does that make Apple modeltards?) but Apple has enough fans that people will buy anyway (Stevetards? Iphonetards? Appletards? Apple tarts?), but that doesn't mean they're willing to play the game by Apple's marketing concept...

€1 says there'll be an apple fanbois on shortly to defend Steve

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Jobs Halo

App£€ in money-grabbing corporate scumbag shocker!

...wow, who'd have thunk it?

*boo-hoo* How could you do it to us Stevie? *sob* We thought u was our kewlest bestest fwend.... *waaaaahhhhhh*

*WAAAAAAAHHHHH*

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@andy ( and others )

Yes there is a solution. Ok, you can not complain if the difference would be 2 or 3 pounds. but 15 pounds ? i NOBODY buys one simply because o fthis price difference then apple will have to drop its prices. It's as simple as that.

Besides . these ipods , iphone and other things are like crack.. you buy one , 6 mopnths later a new model comes along and you buy that one , and then you also want a shuffle or mini ...

i don't have one and i'm not the least tempted to buy one either. if i listen to music it's through a roku soundbridge. I can listen to music from over 5000 stations. all for free.

My favorite song would have been 'the sound of silence' .. The title seemed atttractive and then i found out that someone is actually siging and making noise.. that was a bummer...

I prefer listen to the birds singing every morning instead of blasting my ears with what seems to me like someone milking a cat using pliers or someone with a speech impediment

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Unhappy

Should be the benefits of globalisation at work

But no, if it is good for consumers rather than companies...

Companies have gotten too used to being able to isolate individual countries and maximise their profits by doing so. They should get used to the fact that customers won't let them get away with that for much longer.

If duties or transport was the issue than all these resellers would not be able to make any money...

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> Ownership Rights

Thats true over buying and selling something - the makers usually win by claiming the copyright on the name.

So you can legally sell an iPod in the UK but not use the name iPod.

That's how levi got Asda to stop selling jeans cheap.

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Jobs Horns

I'm sure Apple will get their way...

...not that I agree with it.

Didn't Sony get that injunction against European importers buying in Japanese/North American PS3s when they were first released about 4 months before the PAL-spec PS3 would be released?

I think Sony's argument was on grounds of Europeans "not getting adequate quality" with grey imports.

Apple will probably come up with some other bullshit argument and win the injunction.

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Anonymous Coward

Rip off Britain, not an EU problem

It's a UK only problem, you can import goods into the EU freely, however the UK uses copyright law to say that importing goods in parallel to an official distributor is a copyright violation (I'm not making this up, Blair was smoozed by the music industry and so he put this idiocy into law).

Also a trade mark ruling prevented Tescos from importing cheap levis from outside the EU because Levi's UK said it infringed their trademark. (Again not kidding, a Judge decided it made sense that the UK should pay more for everything than everyone in the rest of the world because it would affect Levi UK profit margins).

So the problem is in the UK. EU Court of justice has said it cannot interfere because it's not a dispute between EEA countries, the goods came from outside the EU.

However, if you imported goods from outside the EU into another EU Country, then sold them across Europe, including the UK, at that point the EU Court of Justice could strike down the UK Blair barrier to free trade. Can't just be a trick to get around the UK, you'd have to sell it across Europe, a genuine multi-eu-state business.

But really the fix is for the UK to fix it's own laws. It makes no sense to force UK to pay more for goods by barring parallel imports. It's just rip off Britain. You pay more, it makes you less competitive, you fall behind.

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Best Comment Ever

@ Charlie Clark

Everything that needed saying has been said

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Unhappy

Levi's all over again

They probably will win on the basis they can control sale of their trademark... Levi's managed this when they went up against the collective might of Asda (Walmart) and Tesco...

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Apple - Greedy Bas****s

Apple make quality kit but there is no need for this kind of behaviour from a multi-million dollar corporation. Somple message really if your going to buy an Ipod, buy it from the states and import it yourself!

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Tesco / Levi

Unfortunately they'll get away with this -

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2001/11/21/nlevi21.xml

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Flame

Qho buy this junk in the 1st place?

iPod is very low quality (as reported on the net) junk mp3 player, even with at reduce price, it is still overprice. But Apple business model is based on ripping of consumers, so no suprise here that Apple want to protect the only cash cow keeping it alive,

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Pirate

Pity the EU isn't a free market

If only you chaps would have a free market in the EU then other vendors could move in with competitive products and undercut Apple's prices in any walled off market until the prices in each market were equal.

But the iPod is not sold as a MP3 player, it is sold as an iTunes access device and Apple does not allow any other companies to make such.

All I can do is appeal to that good European, St Columba: Patron Saint of File-Sharing to save us from poisoned apples.

-HJC

I still buy all of my music on CDs and no, it isn't yet time for a love revolution it seems...

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Unhappy

price fixing again in the uk NO NEVER!!

here we go again charged 20% more for exact same product in the uk. Are the people in china paid any more for making the ones destined for the uk market DOUBT THAT VERY MUCH so whats the difference apple?

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Paris Hilton

transport?

What transport charges? The back of my Shuffle says it was made in China (designed by Apple in California, it seems). Last time i checked, ol' Blighty was a damn sight closer to China than to the USA.. it should cost LESS here..

Paris, cos I wouldn't mind paying her transport charges...

Why can't we have a dual iHate/Paris icon?

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@Charlie

Yes, yes, you are very grown up. We are all very impressed.

@ bob - this isn't about buying stuff, but selling it. Look up Levi Strauss vs Tesco.

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Go

Grey Market

Ah, Grey Markets. What fun they are.

Apple are far from alone in this as everyone does it, but I am getting tired of every company charging a You-live-in-the-UK tax.

The usual way companies deal with this is by refusing to honour out-of-region warranties based on serial numbers, which is why you'll see grey Omegas and Rolexes in the US sold brand new with filed-down serials. It's a laugh, innit.

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J
Black Helicopters

Only?

Only 15 quid less? Given other examples I usually see at this site, I'd think it would be way more...

While we're at it, as someone said above, Apple is not alone in fixing prices, it seems to me. I'm looking for a PS3 to take home to a cousin, and they ask $399 for it *everywhere* (Googling for it shows a bunch of cheaper prices from completely unknown "store"... given the situation I've seen when shopping for photo equipment, I wouldn't consider those as legit). Where's the competition? Predatory capitalism at its best, no? Or are these guys' margins so slim that nobody can lower the price (I doubt that, but who knows)?

Anyway, justice is not about what's just, it's about who can pay for their favorite outcome, so I'm afraid this one is not gonna end well for the little guys...

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Blame the EU

Sadly Apple has the weight of EU law behind them, remember the cheap Levis in tesco?

EU law actually protects company distribution rights etc. Under EU law it is ok for a retailer to source goods from elsewhere within the EU but not parallel import from outside the EU.

Companies will say that it is to protect their regional licensing deals and they do exploit the situ by charging the maximum each market will bear.

The EU on the other hand seems happy to go along with it as they milk the consumer too, as their high taxes (vat, fuel, imcome taxes and import duties, property taxes etc) make EU retail prices uncompetitive anyway and so the EU governments put their snouts in the same corporate trough to protect their own tax revenue streams. The only loser is the consumer.

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jai
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what's the difference?

isn't this exactly what Sony did when they stopped the places like lik-sang from exporting games and consoles from hong kong to the uk

we, the customers, may not like it, but in a capitalist society, the corporations will get their way

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Gold badge

Not unique to Apple

>As long as duty is paid on the items there is nothing to prevent this. Hope Apple get >done for restrictive practice.

Court cases have been held over other grey import cases such as Levis. Levis won and proved that grey imports are illegal.

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Alert

Levis versus Tescos

ITs true that since they got Tesco's and Asda, you can no longer buy cheaper Brand Name jeans in these supermarkets.

But you can now buy a pair of jeans for about £5-£10 in these establishments so you never have to walk the high street and be tempted into buying a pair of expensive jeans. Fifty quid for a pair of jeans - why bother when you can pick them up with your weekly shop and it doesn't matter if the cat slepes on them.

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@Ownership Rights

should'nt that be iPawned

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its what they do

Apple have always charged a premium for their products. I remember a simular story about top end cars, the price was reduced and they wern't selling anymore because nobody believed you could get a good quaility product for that price. It didn't even matter if the cars were any good anyway, what mattered was the perceived value by the consumer.

You do pay a premium for the "design" of Apples stuff, even if you ignore the added importation fees they put on top of their products into the UK. Quite frankly some of their stuff is overpriced and can be made cheaper and better by other manufacturers; well ignoring certain patents ;-)

I was recently shopping for a new MP3 player, and you visit all the high street shops and chains only too discover that the same model of ipod costs the same in any shop. I think the price fixing accusation is valid. If you are capable of providing the same product for cheaper you should be allowed to do so, the competition is heathly and natural for any business.

and another thing, don't get on the pricing model for the iphone. thats a bloody rip-off in any language no matter how you add the numbers up.

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Ok, commenters - where do you get off...

... making this all about Apple? This is a specific example an industry-wide problem that needs dealing with. It's the kind of petty, small-minded idiocy that's being displayed here that prevents the system being fixed.

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Crooked...

UK legislation is as bent as a nine bob bit! It's that simple. These grey importing rules allow nothing more than price fixing, as is clear by virtue of the fact that the prices *can* be made cheaper.

No doubt they'll be using the same legislation Sony ended up bumming Lik Sang with in the high court.

That this legislation exists is nothing short of a disgrace, and is only used as an excuse to maintain overly high prices.

Once again, EU customers get a bum deal... exactly what are all these euro-politicians doing again?

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@Charlie Clark

It'll be the same legislation re:parallel importing used by Sony to give Lik Sang a good shagging. Apple will win, without doubt.

It does raise the question of why this legislation exists in the first place, it's only purpose is to allow price fixing within the EU.

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Anonymous Coward

Rip off Britain, not an EU problem (Tesco/Levi)

It was an EU Court decision so it's EU wide, and trademark not copyright law.

Still wrong though, free the trade.

The thing to do here, is to boycott Apple until they get their act together, I know I will.

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Gates Halo

Hope they FAIL

They move their manufacturing operation to China, a market that plays by different rules to the West but they Don't like it when the consumer does a similar thing by exploiting different markets.

BTW top comment by Charlie Clark.

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Thumb Up

Start a petition?

we should start an e-petition at downing street about it

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/

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Heart

Thanks for the publicity, Apple

Now more people will know that they can be had for less.

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Stop

It's true that it's not Apple that are to blame

It's the UK. The UK has a 'premium' that you don't get in Europe, that you don't get most other countries. It's crazy, the international prices on 95% of popular electronic appliances, computers, or computer peripherals even when converted from Euros/USD/etc to GBP are almost always anywhere from partially to significantly lower. Apple is just doing the same as what every other major company in the UK who has anything to sell is doing, it's just business. Grey Market stuff never the less still seems to be quite readily available from Tottenham Crt Rd / Oxford St stores though!

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I'll not be buying another iPod anyway...

I don't want to "Sync" my music with my computer, or buy it through iTunes... I just want to select a bunch of MP3's from my PC (HOWEVER I obtained them), drag them onto my player, and go. I don't need software; I just need an OS and a USB storage driver.

iPod is shit and I'm afraid I learnt that the hard way.

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Stop

Waaa Waaa

Get a grip, just buy something else!

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Jobs Horns

@Aditya Krishnan

"Last time i checked, ol' Blighty was a damn sight closer to China than to the USA.. it should cost LESS here.."

you need to check your globe.... remember Columbus? he proved the world is round!

traveling east to west, yeah, the UK is closer, but there is no reason why you cant travel east from china and get to the usa that way.... its a lot shorter !!!

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Pirate

competition

Sounds like this is made for Creative to jump all over, maybe do some corrective work for their name after their recent fuckup (proud and happy owner of a Zen for 4 years).

Donds for Charlie Clark

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Anonymous Coward

Price fixing

It's price fixing and it should be illegal.

Companies are allowed to exploit cheap labour and resources to keep prices down.

They are allowed to sell the products cheapily in one country and then expensively in another but consumers arn't allowed to source goods from these cheaper regions - and neither are enterprising individuals who run "grey" market businesses (back in the day I'm pretty sure it was called a free market - but whatever.)

It's just plain faced price fixing, and they all do it.

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Jobs Horns

Next Apple Takeover

Maybe the next little Tech business Apple should buy is one that makes airport scanners. I'm off to the States in May and how's Beardy Steve going to stop me from filling my suitcase?

Does he know that those little boxes the Nano comes in (that are too small to get a power adapter or software in) are just ideal for mass trans-atlantic transport?

I'll stop the boxes getting scratched by wrapping them in my new Levis or tucking them inside my new Nike trainers.

£200 gets you over the Atlantic. They must think we're f***ing idiots. They're probably right.

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Silver badge

Pricing over borders

Isn't this basically what happens worldwide? Try passing to Mexico from the US border, there are random checks in place, not checking for guns, ammo or drugs but ... grey imports. Despite the Mexican economy being of lower income/expense than the US, usually tech stuff is 2x or 3x higher up the US retail price. When the PS3 came out, the price tag was MXN$ 13,000 (about 1250 USD) which made Mexico the country where the PS3 had the highest price tag WORLDWIDE. Yes, even more than Blighty or Denmark. Ow.

Point in case: the iPhone's being announced with a MXN 7,700 price tag (USD 700) so go figure. Grey imports, locally known as "fayuca" are highly profitable because of this, and MercadoLibre (the Latin American eBay) is basically full of these imports.

Of course, the big businesses don't like this border-crossing trade and always will try to shut it down; hence the DVD and BD regions which nicely cut off convenient areas: Region 1 is "North America" but it excludes Mexico, which is pegged in Region 4. Of course, region-free and/or Region 1 players became commonplace, and business returned to usual.

Apple isn't alone in this, its the entire goods industry!

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@Paul Hatch

"they do exploit the situ by charging the maximum each market will bear."

Indeed- and this is the trouble we face- in spite of how much it pisses us all off, enough people go out and buy this crap all the same for it to make sense for them to charge so much extra.

Just to counterpoint the comments annoyed at parallel import/price differentiation, there are some plus sides to the rules, too (although I don't see how they apply in the case of iPods and Levi jeans). HIV drugs are often a lot cheaper in developing nations than in the west- the price disparity is not pure profit for the GSK; the western price reflects the millions (billions?) of dollars spent on research. Developing nations couldn't afford that price, so it benefits everyone to lower it for them (GSK get some extra income, Africans get HIV drugs). This is price differentiation that benefits society as a whole- I certainly wouldn't want a situation that effectively forced drug companies from supplying discounted drugs to these countries because they'd just get sold on to profit hungry HMOs in the west.

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