Relaunching the digital single market: Banning geo-blocking

Lambert van Nistelrooij, a Dutch Member of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) of the European Parliament explains his opinions on banning geo-blocking

The digital single market in Europe doesn’t work as it should. Not only the striking differences while renting a car at an airport in the EU made headlines. A public consultation by the European Commission found that close to 90% of consumers have experienced geo-blocking.

Many European consumers experience different prices and conditions when buying goods or services abroad, in particular via the internet. In my opinion, it’s high time to ban this.

The EU is realising a law to correct this starting from the end of 2018 – the geo-blocking regulation. Its aim is to make online shopping work like offline shopping, where consumers from everywhere are generally offered products or services at the same price and conditions.

Speeding up the (digital) single market

The purpose of having a single market, for consumers, is better prices and more choice through competition. Geo-blocking prevents just that. Take for example a Dutch consumer that wants to buy a website hosting service from a German company. Until now, the German company could deny access to its services or charge higher costs because of the customer’s location.

From 2018, the company cannot decline nor charge a higher amount. Under the new rules, online sellers will not be allowed, much like their offline colleagues, to discriminate between EU consumers when it comes to terms and conditions and prices based on their nationality, place of residence or even their temporary location.

So, EU buyers abroad will finally be treated like locals, like with the successful EU roaming rules for mobile phones. With the high growth potential of the digital single market, we speed up the European integration to the benefit of the consumer.

What’s in it for you?

The new regulation will cover 3 different dimensions: electronically-supplied services, goods without physical delivery and services provided in a specific physical location. Without paying more, buyers located in other EU countries than the traders’ will be able to:

  • Buy goods when the trader does not deliver them to your home country. There should be an option to collect the goods at an agreed location or pick them up yourself. However, there will be no obligation to deliver across the EU for companies.
  • Make a booking (hotel, sports events, car rental, music festivals or leisure park tickets) abroad under the same conditions as locals. Renting a car, or booking a weekend to Disneyland, prices and conditions may no longer vary based on nationality or residence.
  • As a basic rule, automatic re-routing to another (country-specific) website without the consumer’s prior consent will not be allowed. If consumers in Belgium specifically want to check the webshop of Ikea Germany for example, they should be able to inform themselves there.
  • Regarding payments: traders will no longer be allowed to request that consumers should possess a debit or credit card from a specific country to make a purchase.

In closing, I would like to say that the geo-blocking regulation is a significant step forward in further realising the potential of the digital single market. Now that there is an agreement with the European Council, online consumers have similar rights as locals. The European Parliament will formalise this position in the coming months.

 

MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij

Dutch Member of the Internal Market and Consumer

Protection Committee (IMCO) of the European Parliament

Tel: +31 70 342 48 20

lambert.vannistelrooij@europarl.europa.eu

www.lambertvannistelrooij.nl

www.twitter.com/LvNistelrooij

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