The European Union eliminates geoblocking for online purchases between countries

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Today, the new Regulation that the European Commission proposed in May 2016 to put an end to the unjustified online geographical blockade has come into force . Europeans will not have to worry about being blocked or diverted to a website simply because they (or their credit card) come from a different country. Provided they are in the EU, they will be able to access goods and services online.




With this motive, the vice president responsible for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, the Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs , E lżbieta Bieńkowska, the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová, and the Commissioner for the Economy and Digital Society, Mariya Gabriel, stated the following: 

“In 2015, 63% of the websites  did not allow interested parties to buy in another EU country , with the result that around two thirds of consumers who wanted to shop online abroad were prevented from doing so. This practice will end on December 3. We want a Europe without barriers, and this also eliminates obstacles to online purchases.

Along with the abolition of roaming charges, the new rules on data protection and the possibility for citizens to travel with their online content, the end of the unjustified geographical blockade is another essential initiative that makes the digital single market a reality for all and offers concrete advantages to citizens and businesses.

The new rules will allow consumers to have more possibilities to choose products at competitive prices and, therefore, better conditions. At the same time, companies will assist in the expansion of their customer base across borders and enjoy a reduction in administrative and transaction costs. The Regulation is part of a broader EU effort to boost e-commerce in the single market, which includes measures to better protect consumers online, ensure more affordable cross-border parcel services and simplify VAT rules to facilitate the purchase and sale of goods online . 

It is now our turn to call on all Member States to ensure the effective application of these rules and to do everything in their power to enforce the Regulation effectively from the first day. We also request an agreement on harmonized standards for the sale of digital goods and services and online purchases. All these elements are crucial for the creation of a competitive and functioning digital single market. “

Next stages

The Member States are responsible for enforcing the Regulation and have to create the necessary structures so that it starts to be applied without problems. Specifically, Member States should designate bodies that will be entrusted with the observance of the standard and bodies that should provide practical assistance to consumers. In addition, Member States should establish effective, proportionate and dissuasive measures which will apply when the Regulation is infringed. The Commission will carry out a first revision of the Regulation on the geographical blockade by March 2020 at the latest.

This evaluation will aim to study whether the principle of non-discrimination in accessing goods and services can be extended to non-audiovisual services provided electronically whose main characteristic is content protected by copyright, such as electronic books, music , games or computer programs. The Commission will also carefully analyze whether there are other sectors, such as services in the field of transport or audiovisual services, in which any unjustified restriction persists on grounds of nationality, place of residence or place of establishment to be abolished.

Context

Both consumers and businesses – especially SMEs – show an increasing interest in purchases and sales across the EU. Online product sales are growing 22% per year. However, often merchants refuse to sell to customers in another EU Member State or offer prices as advantageous as those enjoyed by local customers.




The  Regulation (EU) 2018/302 ( ‘Regulation on the geographical blockade “) , which shall enter into force on 3 December, aims to provide more opportunities for consumers and businesses within the EU internal market. In particular, it addresses the problem faced by some customers, who can not purchase goods and services from traders located in a different Member State, even under the same conditions as the local population, solely on account of their nationality, place of residence or place of business. establishment. According to a survey carried out by the Commission in 2015, only 37% of the websites really allowed cross-border customers to reach the final stage – present their payment data – in order to complete the purchase. 

The Regulation on the geographical blockade is part  of a wider set of measures to enhance e-commerce  in the single market, such as the revision of the  Regulation on cooperation for the protection of consumers , the  new rules on cross-border parcel services , the  new rules of digital contracts  and the  new rules on VAT for electronic commerce .

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