Survey: Europeans well aware of geo-blocking rules
June 28, 2019
By Colin Mann
Seven months after new rules against unjustified geo-blocking began to apply, general consumer awareness of the new rules against restrictions for online shopping and cross-border sales is already high.
A Eurobarometer survey shows that just a few months after the new rules on geo-blocking started to apply, 50 per cent of EU citizens are generally aware of EU action to tackle unjustified discrimination by traders. However, more efforts are needed to ensure wider knowledge of the specific digital rights enshrined in EU law, since only 29 per cent of respondents know which rights specifically concern them.
“By banning unjustified geo-blocking last December we made another concrete step for Europe’s people and businesses to get the most and best from the digital age,” declared Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip. “I am now pleased to see that Europeans are largely enjoying their new digital right, which is part of a total of 35 new digital rights and freedom that the Digital Single Market has created, as a new legal environment has fallen into place.”
“The new rules ending unjustified geo-blocking benefit consumers and traders alike, offering fairer access to products and services within the EU single market,” added Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel. “Companies that continue to restrict access to consumers are quite simply breaking the law. The Commission will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the rules are complied with.”
The Eurobarometer survey is part of the Commission’s ongoing evaluation of consumer needs and market realities in sectors that are currently not covered or only partially covered by the geo-blocking rules. This evaluation will feed into an initial review of the rules, planned for March 2020, which will look into whether there is need to extend the scope of the Regulation. For example, the survey clearly shows that audio-visual and other electronically supplied copyright-protected content, such as music streaming and downloading, e-books and games, is among the most popular content sought by consumers across borders. This type of content is not covered by the current rules, yet it is likely that it will merit specific attention under EU law in the near future.
In particular, the number of internet users trying to get cross-border access to content has nearly doubled over the last four years (from 8 per cent in 2015 to 15 per cent in 2019). The most popular types of content sought across borders is audio-visual (sought by 9 per cent of respondents) and music (8 per cent). The survey also indicates that this trend is likely to continue, driven by young people in particular; the percentage of 15 to 24 year-old respondents who have tried to access these services across borders is 28 per cent, nearly double the overall figure.
The most common reasons for trying to access such content are lack of availability in the respondents’ own country (44 per cent), followed by the quest for a wider choice (39 per cent). A majority of those who did not try to have access to content meant for users in another EU country would nonetheless still be interested in doing so (in particular audio-visual with 31 per cent and music with 29 per cent, with even higher figures for the younger generations).
The Regulation against unjustified geo-blocking, which entered into force on December 3rd 2018, addresses unjustified online sales discrimination based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market. It does not oblige traders to allow access to their content, nor sell or deliver across the whole EU, but rather prohibits traders from discriminating against customers based on their nationality, place of residence or place of establishment, if the trader already delivers to their particular Member State.
This regulation is part of a series of rules on e-commerce aimed at boosting cross-border online sales in the EU, for the benefit of the consumers, who will enjoy more choice and more guarantees, as well as for the online sellers. In particular:
- the revised Payment Services Directive and new rules on cross-border parcel delivery services, that offer greater payment and price transparency across the EU, are already in force;
- the revised consumer protection rules, aimed at offering more protection for consumers when buying online, have been recently agreed by the European Parliament and the Council;
- the new VAT rules for online sales of goods and services, intended for adapting VAT measures to an increasingly digital and globalised economy, will enter into force in January 2021.
Under the Digital Single Market strategy, Europeans can, since April 2018, access their online subscriptions to films, sports events, e-books, video games or music services while travelling to another Member State. In addition, new rules are designed to make it easier for broadcasters to enrich their online output across borders, granting people better choice and access to content across borders and allowing European culture to flourish.