HC Deb 24 February 1999 vol 326 cc317-8W
Mr. Maclean

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what action he is taking to prevent regional coding of DVD video disks; [72749]

  1. (2) what steps he will take to ensure that consumers are made aware of regional coding of DVD video disks; [72743]
  2. (3) what discussions he has had with PC manufacturers to ensure that purchasers of DVD video disks can change their regional codes indefinitely; [72745]
  3. (4) what discussions he has had with manufacturers of consumer DVD video players to ensure that their machines will play disks from each of the six regions of the world; [72748]
  4. (5) if he will make a statement on DVD video disk technology and how consumers can be protected from DVD video disk manufacturers and film makers (a) operating a pricing cartel and (b) designing machines and disks which are not compatible outside their region; [72746]
  5. (6) what discussions he has had with Ministers in other countries on combating anti-competitive behaviour with regard to DVD video disks. [72799]

Dr. Howells

I understand that the region lock protection system to which the right hon. Member refers reflects the different release schedules for feature films in different areas, and that there are no proposals similarly to restrict blank DVDs or audio disks. Consumers can check that any disk they purchase will play on an appropriate player by matching up the regional code printed on the disk packaging with that shown on the front of their player.

Under UK competition law, in the first instance it is the responsibility of the Director General of Fair Trading (DGFT) to investigate allegations of anti-competitive behaviour. The market for DVDs is still young and the DGFT will be monitoring its development. To date he has seen no evidence of price cartels or any other anti-competitive behaviour. If the right hon. Member has any such evidence he should pass that direct to the DGFT. Neither I nor the Secretary of State have had discussions with PC manufacturers, or with Ministers in other countries, about the specifications for DVDs.