End of geoblocking: The most important facts for online merchants on the EU compromise

Stefano Viani

Management

16 Jan 2018 Law Digital Agency

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 they want 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 will have to 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 store 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 in Greece and pays no more for this service than a Greek consumer).
  • Sales of services provided in 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

Online merchants will no longer be allowed to automatically reroute consumers from EU countries to the respective national web store. Rerouting is now only allowed with the consumer's consent. However, if the user has consented to rerouting, this consent will also be assumed for subsequent sales (same consumer, same online store). This regulation also has advantages for the merchant in relation to suppliers, as the latter can no longer impose prohibited rerouting of their customers on the merchant.

Other important principles at a glance:

  • No obligation to deliver: the merchant is not obliged to deliver to countries outside its business territory. The consumer must arrange the delivery himself or pick up the goods.
  • Applicable law: In principle, the law of the country in which the merchant is based 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 domicile. Thus, the merchant must 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?

To give small merchants in particular enough time to adjust to the new rules, the rules will not come into force until nine months after publication in the Official Journal of the EU - so probably not before October 2018.

About the Author

As Executive Director of Blackbit digital Commerce GmbH, Stefano Viani manages all areas of the agency in the offices in Göttingen, Hamburg, Berlin and Kiev. His passion is the development of marketing strategies and their implementation in concrete measures.

In his free time, Stefano is passionate about riding his motorbike or working out in the gym.