Executives from Apple Inc and major music labels will visit Brussels on Sept. 19-20 for an antitrust hearing with the European Commission over the iTunes Music Store.
The development comes five months after the Commission -- the European Union's antitrust authority -- accused Apple and music giants Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and EMI Group of possible violation of competition rules through iTunes.
All but WMG are appearing at the hearing, a Commission spokesman said. Under the Commission's antitrust proceedings, all companies formally charged have the right to a hearing.
The parties who make the initial complaint also have the right to attend the hearing, which will be closed to the public and no judgment will come of it. Instead, the hearing officer will send his summary to EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.
Apple will be in the hearing for the duration. Because each of the record companies signed a different contract with Apple, and on confidential terms, no two record firms will be present at the same time.
The Commission says consumers can only buy music from the iTunes' on-line store in their country of residence - thus restricting their choice of where to buy music, and consequently what music is available, and at what price.
European consumers are only able to download music from the iTunes site in their country of residence and prices differ from country to country within the 27-nation EU. Customers can only buy songs in the country where their credit card is registered.
Earlier this year, German and French consumer groups added their weight to a Scandinavian campaign to force Apple to make its iTunes online store compatible with digital music players that compete with the iPod. Songs bought and downloaded on iTunes work with iPods players but not rival models, like those using Microsoft Windows Media system. Nor can iPods usually play copy-protected music sold through non-Apple stores.