European Union Agrees To Ban Geoblocking

New legislation from the European Union mean that mean that online retailers will no longer be allowed to discriminate against customers based on their location within the EU. The legislation, which will come into effect in 2018, will oblige retailers to make products including concert tickets, car rentals, electrical products and other goods available to all EU citizens regardless of which country they’re living in.

This is good news for consumers, who currently can find themselves in the position where they can’t buy certain goods online due to “geoblocking”. Putting an end to this type of discrimination has been an EU priority for some time as the union tries to complete a single digital economy.

A Commission survey found that geoblocking is currently taking place on 63% of websites, and that 40% of online retailers allowed cross-border customers to complete purchases. The proposals will increase revenues for businesses, provide more choice for customers and improve consumer rights.

European consumers will no longer be required to pay with a debit or credit card issued in the country of the website, and will be free to access all products across the EU. “EU citizens will be able to buy their new furniture online, book hotel rooms or use their credit card across borders, like at home,” said Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for digital economy.

The new agreement between the European Parliament, European Commission and the EU member states will allow all consumers to buy online products and services from any EU country, which include e-commerce giants like Amazon and eBay. Consumers won’t be directed to a country specific website unless they consent to it, however the retailers will not be obliged to provide delivery.

Andrus Ansip, Vice President of the Commission said the new rules would mean an end to consumers being treated differently based on their location and create a digital single market across the EU, saying in a statement that “With the new rules, Europeans will be able to choose which website they want to buy from, without being blocked or re-routed. This will be a reality by Christmas next year”

The proposals won’t currently apply to video and music streaming content for copyright and pricing reasons, which includes service like iTunes, Spotify, movies and e-books. The EU had hoped to include these services in the new laws, but the industries disputed it as they felt it would lead to price increases in some countries.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) argued that this content should be included to ensure consumers living, working or studying in another EU member state have as much choice as possible, saying that “It is especially frustrating for consumers who belong to a linguistic minority and would like to watch series or films in their own language,”

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