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Europe ends shopping geo-blocking

February 6, 2018

By Colin Mann

Buyers will be able to shop online in the EU without being blocked or automatically re-routed following a vote in the European Parliament, although digital copyrighted content, such as e-books, downloadable music or online games, will not be covered by the new rules for the time being.

The new rules will ban the ‘geo-blocking’ of buyers browsing websites in another EU country, so as to enable them to choose from which website they  buy goods or services, without being blocked or automatically re-routed to another website as a result of their nationality, place of residence or even their temporary location.

Traders will have to treat online shoppers from another EU country in the same way as local ones, i.e., grant them access to the same prices or sales conditions, when they:

  • buy goods (e.g. household appliances, electronics, clothes) which are delivered to a member state to which the trader offers delivery in his general conditions, or are collected at a location agreed by both parties in an EU country in which the trader offers such option (traders would not have to deliver in all EU countries, but buyers should have the option to pick up the package in a place agreed with the trader);
  • receive electronically supplied services not protected by copyright, such as cloud services, firewalls, data warehousing, website hosting, or
  • buy a service which is supplied in the premises of the trader or in a physical location where the trader operates, e.g. hotel stays, sports events, car rentals, music festivals or leisure park tickets.

Treating shoppers differently based on the place of issuance of a credit or debit card will also be forbidden. While traders remain free to accept whatever payment means they want, they may not discriminate within a specific payment brand based on nationality.

The EU Commission must assess within two years after the entry into force of the regulation whether the ban on geo-blocking should be widened to include content such as digital copyrighted content, i.e., e-books, downloadable music or online games, as well as audio-visual and transport services, which are also currently excluded.

Róża Thun (EPP, PL), rapporteur, said: “This new EU law on geo-blocking is an important step towards an even more competitive and integrated Digital Single Market, for both consumers and traders. It also represents another milestone in the fight against the discrimination of consumers based on their nationality or place of residence, which should never be taking place in our united Europe. We have proven that the European Union can deliver concrete results for the citizens all over Europe, bringing positive changes in their daily lives.”

Categories: Articles, Policy, Regulation