Today, the EU has agreed to end unjustified ‘geoblocking’ – where access to certain websites or online content is restricted based upon the user’s geographical location.
The new rules will come directly into force in around nine months’ time – ahead of Brexit, leaving UK consumers freer to use other EU-based sites.
This means that by next Christmas you’ll be able to buy new electrical goods online, rent a car or get concert tickets across borders – just like you do at home.
It will also ensure you no longer face barriers such as being asked to pay with a debit or credit card issued in another country.
What are the new rules?
What has been agreed by EU lawmakers is an end to geoblocks for the sale of goods and services — but not for digital media like videos, games, ebooks.
This is because the services are linked to copyright-protected content or ‘works in an intangible form‘ – and as such music or video streaming services, like Spotify or Netflix – will be excluded from the scope of the regulation.
But services such as cloud storage, data warehousing and website hosting will be covered.
The new rules define three specific situations that the EU has identified where there’s no justification for a different treatment between customers from different EU Member States.
The three specific situations are:
- The sale of goods without physical delivery. For example: You want to buy a refrigerator and find the best deal on a German website. You’ll be entitled to order the product and collect it at the trader’s premises or organise delivery yourself to your home.
- The sale of electronically supplied services. For example: You want to buy hosting services for your website from a Spanish company. You’ll now have access to the service, can register and buy this service without having to pay additional fees compared to a Spanish consumer.
- The sale of services provided in a specific physical location. For example: You and your family can buy a trip directly to an amusement park in France without being redirected to a UK website.
Last year an agreement was reached among EU institutions on new rules around the portability of digital content for travelers, meaning that from this year EU citizens traveling across the 28 Member State bloc can now access the online media services which they have already subscribed to when they are on holiday in another EU country.
Digital single market
The new rules are part of the EU’s Digital Single Market strategy which, amongst other changes, aims to end the use of unjustified geo-blocking between EU countries.
The EU argues that ‘too many Europeans cannot use online services that are available in other EU countries, often without any justification; or they are re-routed to a local store with different prices.
‘Such discrimination cannot exist in a Single Market.’
EU Commissioner in charge of the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel, said: ‘Along with the end of roaming charges and portability, EU citizens will be able to buy their new furniture online, book hotel rooms or use their credit card across borders, like at home.’