Despite 11 years of living in Britain, I still can never get used to the ripoff prices the Brits are charged — and tolerate — for so many products. Indeed, within the country, the phrase “Ripoff Britain” is even commonly used to acknowledge the situation, but it’s still tolerated. This week’s news of first the DRM-free music from EMI and then the possible action against Apple over pricing just underscores the absurdity.
Let me explain more. It’s not uncommon for things sold in the UK to cost in pounds what they would cost in dollars in the US. That Xbox game? It might be £40 here versus $40 in the US. That means it costs about $80. Same game. Same packaging. Just more money.
Sometimes, manufacturers put this down to transport costs. Oh, energy is so much more expensive in the UK, so we have to pass along the cost. But then again, I used to own a Honda CRV. It was built here in the UK, in the same plant where I understand CRVs were also built and shipping to the US. Yet despite building it here — and shipping it to the US — the US CRVs were still almost have the price as the UK ones.
Now onto Apple. Ages ago, I ripped all of our CDs and put them in MP3 format. I’d put them on first my Rio Karma, then when it died, either my iPod or my Shuffle, primarily to have some tunes while skiing. Recently, my wife decided she wanted to have a music player to take to the gym — plus she wanted to buy certain songs online. So I purchased a Nano for her, saying it made more sense than handing over my iPod. This way, she could manage her own music and do whatever she wanted with it.
I’ve since become a genius since buying the Nano. Apparently, it’s a great. Plus, she’s buying music from Apple directly, which she loves. New music, song by song, whenever she wants.
I tried to quash the entire music buying thing. First, I argued she should just get CDs, since we could rip those and not be locked into Apple’s whateveritis DRM. Second, I just angered me that Apple charged so much, £0.79 per song (about $1.50) versus $0.99. It’s digital music. There’s no shipping. What’s with the 50 percent markup?
Now, I got around this by opening up an Apple store account in the US. I have a US-based credit card, a US PO Box, so I got it going pretty easily. So here we are in the UK, downloading music at the “regular” prices. It makes me happy. Download away, I told her!
Now the DRM-free prices have come out. From the EMI release, that will be £0.99 (about $1.88) in the UK versus $1.29 in the US. I suppose I can be happy that the UK price is slightly less a percentage rise for non-DRM than the US is being charged. But it’s still much more.
So now the EU is looking at Apple’s prices. Good. I don’t expect it will change anything, but you can always hope.