Europeans angry over DVD prices

"If complaints are confirmed then users are not getting a fair deal," said a spokesperson at the EC. "It is our job to protect the rights of all consumers in Europe, so it will be essential to take action."

Mario Monti, European competition commissioner, sent letters to several Hollywood firms including Walt Disney and America Online's Warner Brothers arm, following complaints from European consumer groups.

"In many cases buying products in Europe is more expensive than buying them in the US, in most cases with good cause," said a spokesperson at the Consumers Association. "But if there is no reason why we are being charged more, then the big corporations are just ripping off the consumer."

Not only are prices as much as a fifth higher in the UK, but DVD makers also use different technical standards for different continents.

"EU consumers are artificially prevented from purchasing DVDs from overseas," said Monti.

Those companies under investigation have argued their actions are not anti-competitive, and that country-specific restrictions are imposed on anti-piracy grounds. The EC said its catalogue of complaints had focused on motion picture DVDs and no investigations were, at this point, being carried out on data DVDs. But it seems only a matter of time before the similar price discrepancy between the US and Europe is highlighted.

The seven US firms contacted were Disney, Sony, AOL's Warner Brothers Unit, Vivendi-Universal, Viacom's Paramount, MGM and Twentieth Century Fox.

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