HomeInsightsEuropean Commission publishes report on the first short-term review of the Geo-Blocking Regulation (302/2018/EU)

Article by

The Geo-blocking Regulation prohibits the unjustified discrimination of customers buying goods or services online. It ensures that customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment cannot be used to refuse access to an online shop or service in the EU, including where this discrimination is related to means of payment. The rules have been in force since 3 December 2018.

In the report, the Commission takes stock of the first phase of implementation of the Regulation. Such an early review was agreed upon in negotiations, partly to assess the opportunity for extending its scope to other services, such as copyright-protected content. The review was finalised in the middle of the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, meaning that the report does not take into account any effects of the pandemic.

The Commission’s findings show good consumer awareness and some initial positive effects. For example, blocking access/registration to websites or rerouting consumers to other websites has decreased. On the other hand, there have been significant delays in the empowerment of enforcement bodies by most Member States. Traders continue to be reluctant to offer cross-border delivery options, but there is currently no obligation to do so under the Regulation.

On possibly extending the scope of the Regulation to copyright-protected content, the review suggests that the effects of doing so would depend on the type of content, the level of consumer demand and the availability of content across the EU. For instance, the effects on consumers of extending the Regulation to music streaming could be negative, as prices may rise in certain Member States where these services are currently less expensive. However, the report also identifies potential benefits, in particular for audiovisual content, the availability of which is often limited within national borders and access to which is often geo-blocked.

At this stage, the Commission takes the view that the full effects of the Regulation will only become apparent with time, as enforcement is strengthened and other relevant (e-commerce) measures become applicable and the full impact of the Covid-19 crisis can be assessed. In the meantime, follow-up actions should focus on further monitoring and awareness-raising, while stepping up enforcement and guidance.

The Commission says that another stock-taking exercise should be planned for 2022. The outcome of this will determine whether the Commission will propose amendments to the Regulation or any other follow-up measures, including appropriate legislative intervention. To access the report, click here.