Though Apple may be a rapidly growing phenom in the American consumer market, and arguably the front-runner of the downloadable media content wave with iTunes, the European Union is not jumping on the Apple wagon so quickly.
In fact, it seems that the EU’s new consumer protection program, which will be announced soon, will be targeting any companies that provide downloadable media content, but don’t provide for returns or refunds. iTunes falls squarely into that category.
This is not a surprise move, however; Norway outlawed the use of iTunes to any degree back in January. Norway’s government claimed iTunes should allow consumers to use the content on multiple playing platforms, not just iTunes, and other reasons.
The one large issue the EU is citing for their new program is the inability to return downloaded content.
Many Europeans have complained that they would download music or movies from iTunes, and be disappointed to find their content could only be played in iTunes, and on an iPod. Norway has given Apple until October 1, 2007 to allow for customers to return downloaded content they aren’t pleased with, as well as to make content playable across multiple platforms, not just iTunes and iPods.
This program would not stop with major retailers, though. It would apply across the board to all online vendors, forcing many U.S. distributors to adhere to the EU’s new policies if they wished to continue to do business with countries who are EU members.
Although the EU may be one of the largest organizations of power in the world, they have not left major retailers such as Apple many options. It seems the only thing Apple can do is to completely restructure its downloadable content and online business.
The Union must not feel they are in dire need of Apple’s business, because Apple has staunchly held steadfast to its business practices, and the use of its FairPlay technology, even in the face of recent pressure from the American market.
How Apple responds to this problem could very well be reflective of the changing tides in the online retailing world.
We wait anxiously for Steve Jobs’ response.