Ever been faced with a “not available in your country” message when you want to buy something online?
Stopping unjustified blocking of online cross-border sales
One of the greatest achievements of the European Union, the Single Market, accounting for 500 million consumers and 21 million small and medium-sized enterprises, still faces an obstacle - geographical blocking when buying online. Online traders can deny you access to their websites and online services when you are based in another Member State. It is pure discrimination on the grounds of nationality and residence!
Geo-blocking had been highest when consumers try to buy physical goods, especially when buying household appliances and electronics. According to a survey carried out by the European Commission, 63% of websites use geo-blocking.
But this type of discrimination will end now!
Better prices for consumers, less legal insecurity for sellers
In May 2016, the European Commission made a proposal to end this unjustified geo-blocking within the internal market. The European Parliament had its say in developing the law and, with Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein MEP from the EPP Group leading the process, significant improvements were made to the Commission’s proposal, that will benefit both consumers and traders.
Consumers will now benefit from better prices for goods all over Europe and traders will be better protected with clearer rules, including no obligation to deliver a good, and will not have to be afraid of selling to consumers from abroad. This is especially good news for small traders who will be now better protected from passive sales restrictions from suppliers, as they would not be obliged by suppliers to geo-block for business reasons.
The new rules ban blocking access to websites or sending customers to another country-specific website without his or her consent. So no more of this: when trying to rent a car for your holiday in Malta from a Maltese car rental website while in Estonia, you end up being directed to a car rental website in Estonia with different prices. Or finding a cool one-of-a-kind refrigerator in Germany and not being able to purchase it is because your credit card was refused as you reside in another Member State.
extending the Digital Single Market to additional sectors
However, although the new rules cover buying physical goods online in the European Single Market, they do not include copyrighted material, such as e-books, e-music, video games or e-films. Yet, thanks to the EPP Group, the legislation includes a “review clause” to ensure that, in 2 years’ time, the European Commission has to review the rules, with a view to ending geo-blocking in additional sectors, such as for audio-visual or transport services.
As a European citizen and a consumer, you have the right to profit from the whole Single Market, without any discrimination. Ending unjustified geo-blocking has been one of the EPP Group priorities.
Background information: this Regulation is part of an e-commerce package, together with a legislative proposal on cross-border parcel delivery services and a legislative proposal to strengthen enforcement of consumer rights.