Shopping online to become far easier
Ban on geo-blocking does not cover copyrighted content
Maria Koleva, Brussels
9 February, 2018
Online buyers from a website based in another member country will not be geo-blocked or automatically re-directed anymore when the postal code they write or the credit card they use is from a different EU state. At their sitting in Strasbourg on 6 February, MEPs voted to ban the hurdles concerning shopping across borders through the internet. So customers can choose the best-price offers of certain products no matter from what place in the Union, and also make bookings for hotel room, rent-a-car, concert, opera performances and many others. The new rules oblige traders to treat online shoppers from another EU country in the same way as local customers, granting them access to the same prices or sales conditions.
Polish EPP MEP Roza Thun, rapporteur on the file, commented that the new EU law on geo-blocking is an important step towards an even more competitive and integrated Digital Single Market, for both consumers and traders. She explained that it also represents another milestone in the fight against the discrimination of consumers based on their nationality or place of residence, which should never be taking place in the united Europe.
The new regulation does not cover at this stage e-books, downloadable music, online games and other digital copyrighted content, but the Commission should assess within two years whether the ban on geo-blocking should cover such content, and also audio-visual and transport services.
“Banning unjustified geo-blocking is great news for consumers in Europe,” noted in a joint statement immediately after the vote in the plenary EC Vice-President Ansip and commissioners Bienkowska and Gabriel.
The political agreement to end unjustified geo-blocking was reached by the Commission, the Council and the Parliament in November 2017. After the approval in the EP plenary, the regulation should be adopted finally from the Council, which is expected to happen in the next weeks and will be published in the Official Journal in March. According the procedure, the new rules will enter into force by the end of this year.
Recent data of the EU statistical office Eurostat shows that 68% of internet users in the EU shopped online in 2017. The most popular online purchases were clothes and sports goods, travel and holiday accommodation, household goods, tickets for events, and books, magazines and newspapers. The Commission's survey carried out in 2016 through 'mystery shopping' in over 10,000 e-commerce websites found that 63% of those websites do not let shoppers buy from another EU country. Just in the remaining 37% of the assessed websites buying was successful.