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Personal Finance

Boost for online shoppers as Europe-wide geo-blocking to end

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Boost for online shoppers as Europe-wide geo-blocking to end
Conor Dever

Conor Dever

Staff Writer

It has been a good year for EU consumers first with GDPR, then with the abolition of roaming charges, now it seems more trade barriers are set to fall.

If you have been shopping online lately in a retailer based outside of your country, you may have come across an annoying practice preventing you from checking out because you are not in the right country or area. This is known as geo-blocking, and it is set to end across the EU.

The new legislation, which came into effect this week, will now make it illegal for online retailers to discriminate based on your location as long as you are in the European Union.

Following from GDPR regulations and the abolition of roaming charges, this is a further effort from the European Commision to focus on consumer rights.

“In 2015, 63 percent of the sites did not allow purchases from another EU country, so nearly two-thirds of consumers who wanted to do online shopping in another country could not do this, we end this practice on December 3. We want a barrier-free Europe, which implies, among other things, the removal of barriers to online commerce,” said Andrus Ansip, the vice-president of the digital single market.

The Good

This new law which was enacted on 22nd May 2018 and comes into effect on 3rd December 2018 states;

  • “a company cannot apply different general conditions of access to goods or services, for reasons related to a customer’s nationality, place of residence or place of establishment.”

So that means if you see a nice jacket on a swedish website, from today if they sell it online in Sweden, they have to sell to you.

The Bad

There are some important exclusions from the language however, for instance those of you wondering what this means for the likes of Netflix or BBC iPlayer, you’re not in luck as after some strong lobbying from the TV and film industry, audiovisual services have been excluded. The full list of the excluded services are;

  • Audiovisual services, including copywrited content that is regulated through exclusive territorial licenses, such as sport events and the aformentioned streaming services;

  • The so-called “purely internal situations“, i.e. when the relevant elements of the transaction are restricted to a single Member State e.g. an Italian consumer purchases goods online that are only available in Italy;

  • Retail financial services; and

  • Services in the field of transport e.g. purchases of plane tickets.

The legislation will be up for review every five years, and should the court rule differently it could raise some issues for video on demand services like Netflix and Amazon prime video. For instance buying the rights for distribution of a film in a certain country will become more complex when dealing with all the EU member countries. But for now they remain exempt.

Get in touch

What are your thoughts about the new legislation? Do you think it's great news for consumers or does it not go far enough? Comment below or Tweet us your thoughts @bonkers_ie. We’d love to hear from you!


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