EU welcomes ban on unjustified geoblocking

Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip © Aron Urb (EU2017EE)
Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip © Aron Urb (EU2017EE)

The European Parliament has voted to end unjustified geoblocking, the process by which retailers refuse to sell to consumers from other member states.

Through geoblocking, retailers can prevent consumers from other member states from purchasing their goods, or can change prices based on the region from which the customer is purchasing. However, with online sales of products growing by 22% per year, and increasing interest by merchants and consumers in buying and selling across borders, concerns have been raised about the fairness of geoblocking.

Now, the European Parliament has voted on a regulation to end the practice, which it calls “unjustified” and “unfair”. The regulation is due to come into force in December and would include a number of additional e-commerce measures, including a revised Consumer Protection Coopoeration Regulation and new VAT rules for online shopping.

What did the commission say?

In a joint statement, Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip, Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska and Commissioner Mariya Gabriel welcomed the news, saying: “Banning unjustified geoblocking is great news for consumers in Europe.

Further, the commission argued that the new regulation was a vital step towards the implementation of the commission’s ambition for a digital single market: “Thanks to the European Parliament, another building block of the Digital Single Market has been put in place delivering concrete benefits to citizens and businesses. It is a great step forward for e-commerce in Europe. We are encouraged that all EU institutions share a common vision on what the future of the Digital Single Market will look like.”

However, it also argued that further efforts are necessary to ensure consumers are fully protected when shopping online in Europe. The commission’s statement listed a number of other areas that need to be addressed, including:

  • Transparent and affordable cross-border parcel delivery prices;
  • Simpler VAT rules for e-commerce;
  • Stronger consumer protection; and
  • Harmonised rules for the sale of digital content.

It concluded: “This achievement does not stand alone to make e-commerce more comfortable and easier for consumers and businesses alike: it is an important piece of the puzzle”.

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