The Consumer Council of Norway (CCN) has accused Apple's iTunes Music Store operation of violating the country's Marketing Control Act, and it has asked Norway's consumer ombudsman to intervene on behalf of digital music buyers.
It also asked the ombudsman to investigate three other download services.
The CCN reckons ITMS and other such services fall foul of the law in a number of key areas. For starters, it believes many of the terms and conditions the store imposes on buyers are unreasonable in that they strongly favour ITMS over the consumer. For example, ITMS can change the Ts&Cs governing music after it has been purchased. That, the CCN said, is "a violation of basic principles of consumer contract law".
So too, said the CCN, is the way consumers are prevented from claiming damages if iTunes should create a breach of security that that could be exploited by hackers or malware - a problem highlighted by the recent Sony BMG DRM incident.
Consumers are forced to play downloaded music on an iPod - attempts to use other portable players require the removal of a song's DRM protection, a process banned by the Ts&Cs. The CCN reckons this runs contrary to copyright law's fair use provision.
ITMS, in particular, stipulates its European operation is governed by English law. CCN said that since the Norwegian store is only open to Norwegian buyers, it should be governed by Norwegian law. That it doesn't is a violation of Norway's Marketing Control Act, the CCN claimed.
Some or all of these alleged violations are also made by other digital music services, the CCN claimed, including MSN.no, Prefueled.com and CDON.com.
The CCN said it had been motivated by fears that digital content distributors, driven by the desire to defeat piracy, are eroding consumer rights. It's a claim that has also been made by the UK's National Consumer Council. It has asked the British government to update consumer-protection law to prevent this erosion. ®