HomeInsightsMEPs amend proposed rules on ending unjustified geo-blocking across the EU

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The Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee has strengthened proposed rules to ensure that buyers of goods or services from another EU country are treated like local customers.

The draft law defines specific situations in which geo-blocking will not be allowed. This means that online sellers will not be able to discriminate against consumers elsewhere in the EU with regard to general terms and conditions, including prices, on the basis of their nationality, place of residence or even their temporary location.

Under the proposed rules, without paying more, buyers from a EU country other than that of the trader will be able to:

  • buy goods (e.g. household appliances, clothes) even when the trader does not deliver them in the consumer’s Member State of residence, if there is an option to collect the goods at an agreed location in another EU country (the proposal does not introduce an obligation to deliver across the EU);
  • receive online from the trader services not protected by copyright, such as cloud services, firewalls, data warehousing and website hosting; and
  • make a booking outside the consumer’s place of residence (e.g. hotel stays, sports events, car rental, music festivals or leisure park tickets).

MEPs voted to also include allowing buyers from another EU country to receive e-books, e-music, games or software (i.e. non-audiovisual copyrighted content) if the trader has the right or a licence to use such content for the countries concerned.

Automatic re-routing to another website without the consumer’s prior consent would also be banned, except if a EU or national provision would make it necessary.

Sectors such as audiovisual services (including broadcasts of sports events provided on the basis of exclusive territorial licenses), or financial, transport, electronic communication or healthcare services are excluded from the scope of the draft regulation for the time being. However, MEPs have included a new rule that the EU Commission must assess within three years of its entry into force whether they should be covered in the future.

The Committee’s vote gives its negotiating team a mandate to start three-way talks (trilogues) with the Council and the Commission, with a view to reaching an agreement on the final law. The mandate was approved by 31 votes to 2, with 1 abstention. To read the Committee’s press release in full, click here.