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January 16, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 1:06pm

BRUSSELS TO THE CONSUMER’S RESCUE ON DVD? DON’T COUNT ON IT

By CBR Staff Writer

The burning issue in the matter of Digital Video Disks is the iniquitous way Hollywood has railroaded the standard so that disks made for the American market won’t play on drives sold in Europe or Asia, and vice-versa. It may not be a big problem in the first year or two, but soon there are going to be hundreds of thousands of different disks available in all kinds of outlets in every market, and the prospect that consumers will buy a stack of disks and get them home before they find that half of them won’t play on their machine is an iniquitous infringement of the rights of the consumer. Ideally, consumers would refuse to buy any player that was not multi-standard, able to play disks made for any jurisdiction, but it seems unlikely that the average Joe will be so determined. It is really clutching at straws to look to the European Commission to protect the interests of the consumer – every pressure group imaginable seems to come way ahead of the consumer in Brussels’ thinking, be it the Common Agricultural Policy which fleeces Europeans by making them pay way above the world market price for their food to promoting a Made in the EC policy so that if for example you know that there is a factory in France that makes long-lasting alkaline batteries, and another in Greece that makes batteries that last no time at all, you aren’t allowed to know from which plant the own brand batteries you’re about to buy came from. But the Commission has summoned representatives of the video disk industry and demanded an explanation of why a disk made in America won’t play on a machine bought in Paris. According to the Financial Times, the regional code proponents will argue that as one code will apply across the Community there will be no barriers to internal trade – an contemptibly specious argument when you know that Hollywood will price its disks much higher in Europe than in the US, happy in the knowledge that even the most enterprising will be unable to avoid the rip-off by procuring their disks in the US – and justifying the higher price with the meretricious circular argument that the European market is smaller and the disks have to be made to a different standard. Can Brussels be trusted to fight for the interests of the consumer? The Video Disk will put the bureaucrats to the test.

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