Sony apologizes for Whitney Houston iTunes price hike, calls it a mistake

Whitney HoustonSony has broken its three-day silence after the company came under widespread criticism for increasing the price of two Whitney Houston albums just hours after her death on Saturday.

A statement issued by Sony on Tuesday and reported by Reuters said: “Whitney Houston product was mistakenly mispriced on the UK iTunes store on Sunday. When discovered, the mistake was immediately corrected. We apologize for any offense caused.” No further information surrounding the incident was given.

The somewhat bizarre move by Sony took place at the weekend following the tragic death of pop icon Whitney Houston. On Sunday morning, around ten hours after Houston was pronounced dead at her LA hotel, the cost of Houston’s The Ultimate Collection increased on the UK iTunes store from $7.85 to $12.50. Another of her albums, The Greatest Hits, also went up from $12.50 to $15.67.

Not surprisingly, many complained in forums and elsewhere that Apple and Sony — knowing full well there would be a surge in demand for Houston’s music — were cashing in on the singer’s death. The anger was further fuelled by the fact that neither company responded to the hike in prices. Later on Sunday, however, the cost of the albums were reversed to their original price.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that two executives at Sony Music, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the company had at no point given any instructions to raise the prices of Houston’s albums, and that the hike was due to an error made by a Sony employee based in the UK.

The exact cause of the price hike may never be known, but it would be hard to believe Sony did it as part of some kind of deliberate act – surely it would have known what wrath such a move would incur? In the event, Houston fans around the world were quick to express their disgust at the move, pushing Sony to act to reverse the hike.

Whether Sony has put off some buyers is hard to know, though Houston is currently number two in the UK iTunes album chart, with Scottish singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé in the number one spot.