New EU Geoblocking Regulation
Until now, geoblocking has often deterred EU citizens from shopping on the Internet abroad. A few months ago, the EU Parliament finally put a stop to this practice by issuing a decree. Already on 3 December the Geoblocking-VO becomes valid then. Here you can find out what will change for you.
Order a new coffee machine on the Internet? There is this Italian online dealer with super offers, it is said. But if the customer from Germany tries to get to the order page, he is automatically forwarded – to a German version of the page where the desired coffee machine is not available or much more expensive.
Behind such annoying experiences is the so-called geoblocking. The EU parliament therefore voted on 6 February with large majority for a regulation for the abolishment of the unloved on-line practice.
Now, on 3 December 2018, the entry into force of the regulation is approaching and online merchants must adapt their platforms to meet the requirements of the Geoblocking Regulation. For customers, this means unlimited online shopping on the Internet as if they were there.
What problems has geoblocking caused online customers so far?
How about renting a car, buying concert tickets or ordering a coffee machine online? For customers, it often depends on where they want to place their online order. For example, a rental car may cost a customer from Denmark less than a Bulgarian one. Or that the German customer can buy the coffee machine, but the Maltese customer cannot. Online merchants can identify the origin of the order by the customer’s IP address.
According to a survey by the EU Commission, almost two out of three online retailers in Europe use geoblocking. Often foreign customers are automatically forwarded to websites where the offer is not available or more expensive.
What is to change now?
The new regulation should enable fair online shopping for all. In future, it will no longer be possible for merchants to exclude foreign buyers from their offers or automatically forward them to websites with different prices, for example. If the online retailer generally does not offer delivery to the country of destination, buyers should at least have the option of picking up their goods themselves or organizing transport. For online services such as clouds, geoblocking will no longer be allowed in the future.
Now that the EU parliamentarians have voted in favour, only the member states need to give the green light – this is considered a formality. The geoblocking ban is expected to come into force by the end of the year. However, copyright-protected goods such as e-books, music and online games are excluded from the regulation. The Commission will, however, be dealing with this separately again in the near future. Other EU rules also apply to paid film streaming services such as Netflix or Sky go. They must be freely available to subscribers abroad from March onwards.
And what do consumer protectors say about the planned improvements?
- In principle, they see the regulation as a step in the right direction.
- The law would „significantly strengthen consumers‘ rights in the internal market“, says Johannes Kleis of the European Consumer Centre BEUC. But weak points remained. „The fact that in certain cases the goods ordered can only be collected in the country of the manufacturer or supplier is, of course, unsatisfactory.
- That is why it is important that the reform of the EU parcel market makes progress.
- The biggest nuisance, however, is that copyright-protected content is left out.
„This makes no sense at all from the consumer’s point of view,“ says Kleis. Products such as CDs or e-books in particular would like to be bought online
Why are some online merchants so opposed to foreign customers and what do they think about the new rules?
Many shy away from legal obstacles and additional costs. „Unfortunately, we don’t have European unity in trade, but have to live with various differences,“ says Oliver Prothmann, President of the German Online Trade Association. This included, for example, different tax rates and high shipping costs