Government publishes Guidance on Geo-blocking of online content after Brexit

The Guidance essentially explains how restricting access to online content (geo-blocking) between the UK and EU will be regulated if there is a “no deal” Brexit. The document provides information to consumers, business customers, traders and regulators.

The Geo-Blocking Regulation (2018/302/EU) prohibits:

  • blocking access to, or forcing redirection away from, a website on the basis of an internet user’s EU nationality or place of residence within the EU;
  • discrimination by traders on the basis of the customer’s nationality or place of residence when they are purchasing:
    • goods online
    • electronically supplied services (such as web hosting or cloud storage, but not copyrighted material such as ebooks and streamed movies)
    • services provided in a specific physical location (such as a theme park); and
  • discrimination by traders against a means of payment solely on the basis of its place of issue within the EU.

The Regulation entered into force on 22 March 2018 in all EU Member States and has applied in the UK since December 2018.

The Guidance explains that businesses do not need to take any action to prepare for changes to geo-blocking rules if there is a “no deal” Brexit.

In terms of providing goods or services to the UK and EU, the Guidance states that Traders from the UK, EU and other non-EU countries will no longer have to comply with the Regulation for customers based in the UK. They will therefore not be prohibited from discriminating between EU customers and UK customers. This means a trader can redirect UK and EU customers to different versions of a website, offer different terms of access to EU customers compared to UK customers, and would be less restricted in choosing which payment methods they accept.

Traders who are already complying with the Regulation before Brexit will not need to take any additional steps to continue to comply after Brexit. They will, however, be free to continue treating UK and EU customers as they did when the Regulation applied if they wish.

As regards providing goods or services to different EU countries, the Guidance observes that UK traders who wish to continue selling goods and services into the EU will continue to be bound by the provisions of the Regulation when dealing with customers in different EU countries. This means that a UK trader will not be able to discriminate between customers in different EU countries, for instance between a French and a German customer. To read the Guidance in full, click here.