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Apple expected to settle antitrust case with EU

Apple is expected to settle an antitrust case filed by the European Commission concerning its iTunes online music store after the maker of the popular iPod media players conceded to certain changes.

The European Union Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said Tuesday that a decision is likely to be announced on Wednesday, but she declined to give details. “It’s good news,” Kroes told reporters in Ljubljana, Slovenia. People familiar with the case said Apple, in exchange for the settlement, has agreed to make certain changes to its iTunes sales practice on the European market.

The commission formally charged Apple in April 2007, alleging the US company reached agreements with major record companies to restrict music sales, to the effect that consumers can only buy music from the iTunes’ online store in their country of residence. Those agreements containing territorial sales restrictions constitute restrictive business practices, which are against EU rules, according to the commission. iTunes verifies consumers’ country of residence through their credit card details. For example, in order to buy a music download from the iTunes’ Belgian on-line store a consumer must use a credit card issued by a bank with an address in Belgium. The settlement will help Apple avoid a hefty fine, which could be up to 10% of its worldwide annual turnover. (