European Union to End Geoblocking for Consumers Within the EU

The European Union announced Monday that it has reached a political agreement to end unjustified geoblocking for consumers wishing to buy products or services online within the EU. The new rules will boost ecommerce for the benefit of consumers and businesses who take advantage of the growing European online market.

For citizens this means they will be able to buy their new electrical goods online, rent a car or get their concert tickets across borders as they do at home. It will also ensure that they no longer face barriers such as being asked to pay with a debit or credit card issued in another country. For businesses, this means more legal certainty to operate cross-border.

The Regulation does not impose an obligation to sell and does not harmonize prices. It does however address discrimination in access to goods and services in cases where it cannot be objectively justified (e.g. by VAT obligations or different legal requirements).

A Commission survey found that geoblocking practices were identified in 63% of all websites assessed. It shows that in 2015, less than 40% of websites allowed cross-border customers to complete a purchase. This results in less revenue for companies and less choice for consumers.

“Today we put an end to unjustified discrimination when shopping online,” said Vice-President Andrus Ansip, responsible for the Digital Single Market. “This is excellent news for consumers. With the new rules, Europeans will be able to choose from which website they wish to buy, without being blocked or re-routed. This will be a reality by Christmas next year,” he added.