February 12, 2018
The draft Regulation, approved by 557 votes to 89, with 33 abstentions, 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 due to 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 that is supplied on 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.
Under the proposed laws, 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.
Digital copyrighted content, such as e-books, downloadable music or online games, will not be covered by the new rules for the time being. However, 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 such content, as well as audio-visual and transport services, which are also currently excluded.
The agreement on the Geo-Blocking Regulation stills needs to be formally approved by the Council. The new rules will be applicable nine months from the day of its publication in the EU Official Journal, i.e. before the end of this year (2018). To read the European Parliament’s press release in full, click here.