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End of geo-blocking: What's important to know about the EU compromise

Customers may no longer be treated differently or even disadvantaged in cross-border online trade within the EU. This was decided by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission in November 2017 as part of an EU compromise to end unjustified geo-blocking. "(...) Under the new rules, Europeans will be able to choose which website to shop on without being blocked or redirected. Next Christmas, this will be a reality," said Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market.

In which cases does the geoblocking ban apply?

In the following specific situations, consumers from different EU Member States must be treated equally in the future:

  • Sale of goods without physical delivery (example: a Dane is entitled to order a TV from a German online shop and collect it from the retailer or arrange delivery to his home himself).
  • Sale of electronically provided services (example: a Romanian purchases web hosting services from a provider from Greece and does not pay more for this service than a Greek consumer).
  • Sale of services provided at a specific location (example: a Dutch family can directly book a trip to a theme park in France without being redirected to a Dutch website).

No more rerouting without consent

In future, online traders will no longer be allowed to automatically redirect consumers from EU countries to the respective national webshop. Rerouting is now only allowed with the consent of the consumer. However, if the user has consented to rerouting, this consent is also assumed for subsequent sales (same consumer, same online shop). This regulation also has advantages for the trader in relation to suppliers, because they can no longer impose prohibited rerouting of their customers on the trader.

Other important principles at a glance:

  • No obligation to deliver: The trader is not obliged to deliver to countries outside its business territory. The consumer must organise the delivery himself or collect the goods.
  • Applicable law: In principle, the law of the country in which the trader is domiciled applies.
  • Acceptance of national means of payment: EU consumers are not obliged to pay with a debit or credit card from the merchant's country of residence. The merchant must therefore accept cards with comparable functionality from other EU countries.
  • Excluded areas: These rules do not apply to services in the transport sector (train tickets, etc.) or to services whose subject matter is protected by copyright.

When will the new geoblocking rules come into force?

In order to give small traders in particular enough time to adapt to the new rules, the rules will only come into force nine months after publication in the Official Journal of the EU - i.e. probably not before October 2018.