Following a probe by EU commissioners, Apple has announced that within six months it will lower the prices it charges for music on its UK iTunes Store to match the already standardised pricing on iTunes across Europe in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain.

In most of Europe iTunes tracks currently cost 99 Euro cents, which is about 74p - compared to the UK iTunes price of 79p. However, tracks cost 8 Danish Krone in Denmark - which is closer to 80p.

Outside of Europe, iTunes users pay $1.79 NZ dollars (70p) and just 99 US cents (a mere 50p on current currency exchange rates).

According to Apple, the iPod maker is currently forced to pay some record labels more to distribute their music in the UK than it pays them to distribute the same music elsewhere in Europe.

Apple says it will therefore reconsider its continuing relationship in the UK with any record label that does not lower its wholesale prices in the UK to the pan-European level within six months.

“This is an important step towards a pan-European marketplace for music,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We hope every major record label will take a pan-European view of pricing.”

Back in April 2007, the EU launched an inquiry into what Apple's online music store iTunes charges users across Europe, accusing it of restricting customer choice. Brussels believed that agreements between Apple and record companies violate EU laws by preventing users in one country buying music from a site elsewhere.

"Consumers can only buy music from the iTunes online stores in their country of residence and are therefore restricted in their choice of where to buy music," said EU competition spokesman Jonathan Todd.

In September Jobs said that his company wants a level playing field for music sales in Europe, despite the European probe that suggests the company has questions to answer over its iTunes pricing policy: "We think prices should be the same. We think anybody in Europe should buy off any store."

More to follow...