November 27, 2017
The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission have reached political agreement to end unjustified geoblocking for consumers wishing to buy products or services online within the EU. The Commission says that the new rules will “boost e-commerce for the benefit of consumers and businesses who take advantage of the growing European online market.”
Commissioner Ansip, responsible for the Digital Single Market, said: “Today we put an end to unjustified discrimination when shopping online. This is excellent news for consumers. With the new rules, Europeans will be able to choose from which website they wish to buy, without being blocked or re-routed. This will be a reality by Christmas next year.”
For citizens this means they will be able to buy their new electrical goods online, rent a car or get their concert tickets across borders as they do at home. It will ensure that they no longer face barriers, such as being asked to pay with a debit or credit card issued in another country. For businesses, this means more legal certainty to operate cross-border.
The new rules define three specific situations where no justification and no objective criteria for different treatment between customers from different EU Member States are conceivable from the outset:
- sale of goods without physical delivery: for example, a Belgian customer wishes to buy a refrigerator and finds the best deal on a German website. The customer will be entitled to order the product and collect it at the trader’s premises or organise delivery himself to his home;
- sale of electronically supplied services: for example, a Bulgarian consumer wishes to buy hosting services for her website from a Spanish company. She will now have access to the service, and can register and buy this service without having to pay additional fees compared to a Spanish consumer; and
- sale of services provided in a specific physical location: for example, an Italian family can buy a trip to an amusement park in France directly without being redirected to an Italian website.
The new Regulation does not impose an obligation to sell and does not harmonise prices. It does, however, address discrimination in access to goods and services in cases where it cannot be objectively justified (e.g. by VAT obligations or different legal requirements).
The new rules will come directly into force after nine months from the publication in the EU Official Journal. To read the Commission’s press release in full, click here.