Top electronics firms have asked the European Commission to discuss why the European Union executive body abruptly delayed reform of an "excessive and unjustified" copyright tax after lobbying by France.

In December the commission delayed a decision on reforming the levy, which about 20 EU countries slap on sales of recording devices to compensate performers for private copying.

Just before EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy was due to publish his plans, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin asked commission president Jose Manuel Barroso to think again about the reform.

The chief executives of Philips, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Sony-Ericsson, Matsushita Electronic Industrial, Sony and Imation sent a letter to Barroso on Monday evening.

"We would like to request a meeting with you to hear how you intend to proceed, or to understand the reasons why the commission will no longer take action," the CEOs said in their letter, made available to the media.

"Industry's confidence has been shaken by the sudden withdrawal of the proposed reforms, and we look to you to personally lead the way forward for reform," the letter said.

The electronics industry was being penalized by receiving excessive and growing demands for payment of unjustified levies, the letter said.

Top filmmakers such as Bertrand Tavernier of France and Spain's Pedro Almodovar had argued the 560 million euros ($727.8 million) raised by the levy last year was key to funding productions and provided money to governments.

The industry chiefs said commission officials had on several occasions indicated that the tax needed reform.

Earlier this month, McCreevy signaled an end to efforts to revamp a copyright tax on electronic gadgets such as MP3 players.

"It has been left there, because the political view was that it could not be done at the present time," McCreevy said.