The European Commission's top anti-trust official has indicated that Apple Computer's iPod players might escape regulation.

Commission director general for competition Philip Lowe said that his services would only intervene in the case if it was clear that the European market was being damaged by incompatibility of iPods with other MP3 players.

"Before we jump in to regulate competition on the market it is worth asking whether competition is actually harmed," Lowe said at a conference in Munich. "Is there not vigorous competition between different bundles of mp3 players and music libraries?"

Lowe is the EU's top permanent anti-trust civil servant, but he serves under politically-appointed EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes. He said a thorough market examination was needed before taking any decision on measures against Apple.

It comes after European consumer organizations campaigned about Apple iTunes' lack of interoperability with devices other than its own iPod. Consumer groups in Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and France recently joined a Continent-wide move to get Apple to change its coding restrictions, which they claim are illegal. It also comes more than two years after the Commission first heard a complaint, from the U.K.'s Office of Fair Trading, over the iTunes pricing policy.