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No more geo-blocking

Regulation (EU) 2018/302 addresses unjustified online sales discrimination based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market.
The Regulation entered into force on 22 March 2018 in all EU Member States and will apply from 3 December 2018 to allow all traders to adapt. Traders had to take certain measures to ensure compliance ahead of this date.

What is geo-blocking?

Geo-blocking is a discriminatory practice that prevents online customers from accessing and purchasing products or services from a website based in another member state.

The regulation will remove discrimination based on:

  • customers’ nationality,
  • place of residence,
  • place of establishment.

The ban on geo-blocking is an important element of the digital single market strategy. This regulation will supplement other landmark achievements such as the end of roaming charges for mobile phones and the introduction of cross-border portability for online subscriptions, like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Equal access to goods and services

Under the new rules, traders will not be able to discriminate between customers regarding the general terms and conditions – including prices – in three cases:

  • for goods that are either delivered in a member state to which the trader offers delivery or are collected at a location agreed with the customer
  • for electronically supplied services such as cloud, data warehousing and website hosting
  • for services such as hotel accommodation and car rental which are received by the customer in the country where the trader operates.

Payment transactions

Unjustified discrimination of customers in relation to payment methods will be forbidden.Therefore, traders will not be allowed to apply different payment conditions for customers for reasons of nationality, place of residence or place of establishment.

E-commerce website access

Traders will not be allowed to block or limit customers’ access to their online interface for reasons of nationality or place of residence. Ff a trader blocks or limits access or redirects customers to a different version of the online interface, he will have to deliver a clear explanation.

Exceptions

The provision of (non-audiovisual) copyright protected content services (such as e-books, on-line music, software and videogames) will be excluded from the scope of the Regulation. The Regulation prescribes a review within 2 years after its entry into force, which will focus on assessing its scope.
Other services such as financial, audio-visual, transport, healthcare and social services will also be excluded.
Unlike price discrimination, price differentiation will not be prohibited. Therefore, traders will be free to offer different general conditions, including prices, and to target certain groups of customers in specific territories.
Moreover, traders will not be obliged to deliver goods to customers outside the member state to which they offer delivery.

What can consumers do in cases of disputes with traders?

Each Member State must designate a body or bodies responsible for helping consumers in the case of a dispute with a trader arising from the application of the Regulation. Such assistance could consist of explaining the consumer’s rights, helping consumers to settle a dispute with a trader based in another Member State or explaining consumers whom to contact or what to do if the consumer assistance body itself cannot help.