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Sony apologizes for Whitney Houston album price hike

Sony Music

After negative backlash from fans outraged about Sony Music raising prices on Whitney Houston's digital albums within hours of her death Saturday, the music label has now apologized for what it says was a "mistake" on its part.

The New York Times reported on a statement issued by the label admitting to its error and by Sunday night, Sony had changed the prices back:

“[The] Whitney Houston product was mistakenly mis-priced on the U.K. iTunes store on Sunday. When discovered, the mistake was immediately corrected. We apologize for any offense caused.”

It appears the alleged mistake was made by a Sony employee in Britain "and that the company gave no orders for prices to be raised on Ms. Houston’s music."

Brit blogs such as Digital Spy and The Next Web, as well as The Guardian, found that Sony Music increased the price of "The Ultimate Collection" and "The Greatest Hits" digital albums in the U.K. at about 4 a.m. Sunday, not even 12 hours after news broke of Houston's death. Fans and others assumed the increase was Apple's fault, but it turned out that when Sony bumped up the wholesale price of "The Ultimate Collection," it raised retail prices across the board.

The price for "The Ultimate Collection" went from about £5 (about $7.89) to £8 (about $12.63).

In the U.S., the pricing never changed. Houston's "Greatest Hits" album remains at a steep $15 at both Amazon's MP3 store and iTunes — a price we presume was the same prior to her death.

Despite the apology, much damage has already been done. For a few days, the outrage over Sony raising the prices of Whitney Houston's digital albums in the UK seemed to be on par with the outpouring of grief over her premature passing. Tweets sarcastically called the increases "classy," while others questioned whether it was really a mistake at all, vowing to boycott all Sony products.

The day after Houston died, Sony Music issued this statement about her:

“Whitney Houston was an icon and a once-in-a-lifetime talent who inspired a generation of singers and brought joy to millions of fans around the world. She had a voice of unmatched beauty and power that changed music forever, and she leaves behind an indelible legacy of timeless songs that will never be forgotten. She also was an important member of the Sony Music family who spent her storied recording career with Arista Records. She will be greatly missed. Our deepest condolences go out to her daughter and her entire family.”

Sony has made other flubs in consumer relations in the past year, with strained relations with its gamers after the spring 2011 hacking fiasco that leaked the personal information of 77 million players, and even prompted some shareholders to call for the resignation of Sony CEO Howard Stringer.

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