WASHINGTON (AP) -- Music lovers who complain about the high prices of CDs may be getting a break, thanks to an agreement five major music distributors reached with the government to settle allegations that the companies have been overcharging customers.
Under the agreement announced Wednesday, the five companies will discontinue ''minimum advertised price'' programs that required retailers to sell music compact discs at or above a set level in return for getting substantial funding to underwrite their advertising.
The programs cost consumers $480 million since 1997, the Federal Trade Commission estimated.
''These settlements ... should help restore much needed competition to the retail music market,'' FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky said. ''Today's news should be sweet music to the ears of all CD purchasers.''
Under the consent agreement, Universal Music and Video Distribution, Sony Corp. of America, Time-Warner Inc., EMI Music Distribution and Bertelsmann Music Group will be barred from using minimum price programs for the next seven years.
In return, the government agreed not to seek damages for past pricing practices of the companies, and the companies did not admit any wrongdoing, officials said.
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