The end of geo-blocking within the EU

The European Union showed its intent on putting a stop to all unjustified geo-blocking with Regulation (EU) 2018/302, which entered into force on December 3, 2018. As a result, you now have access to all goods and services from any country within the EU.

Mise à jour : Mai 2019

You wanted to make a purchase from an Italian website, but once you entered your French address the price doubled? You requested to publish an advertisement on a Belgian classified ads website, but were denied because of your French nationality? You wanted to make a purchase on a Danish website but it is “reserved for Scandinavians”?

Europe has put a stop to unjustified geo-blocking in e-commerce since December 3, 2018.

What does the end of geo-blocking mean?

From December 3, 2018, you can now purchase any good or service from any business based in another Member State of the EU and be entitled to the same conditions (same price and delivery conditions) as consumers based in that country.

The business is not required to deliver the purchase

Although you can purchase on a website based in another EU Member State, the business is not obligated to deliver your purchase to you in your home country e.g. France if it does not usually deliver there. In this instance, you must either go pick up your purchase at an agreed location or organize your own means of cross-border delivery.

How are consumers affected?

You can no longer be blocked or limited in accessing a website or a smartphone application from a business based in another EU Member State for reasons linked to:

  • Your nationality
  • Your place of residence
  • Your postal address
  • Your IP address
  • Your delivery address
  • Your language
  • Your bank’s location or the country from which your payment means is issued

In addition, you can no longer be automatically redirected to a national website without your consent.

Example

In this instance, you reside in France and connect to the business’ website of a trader based in another Member State and which is in that country’s language. The website can ask you if you would like to stay on the same page in a foreign language or proceed to a version of the website in your language. If you decide to continue to the page in French, the website can save your choice for any future visits to it. However, you must also be able to easily return to the original, foreign page if you wish to. Only legal reasons or reasons of public security can block you from accessing a certain interface or page. If this is the case, the business must inform you of these reasons.

What goods and services are now accessible with no restrictions in the EU?

  •  New or second-hand goods sold online and delivered to an EU Member State: clothing, electronic equipment, furniture, etc.
  • Digital services not protected by author’s rights: information storage, website hosting, online directories, etc.

Example

You are living in France and you want to host your website with a Bulgarian company. You are now able to access this service and purchase it with the same conditions as those offered to Bulgarian consumers (such as, for example, its price).  

  • For services provided in the business’ country of establishment (ex: hotel accommodations, sporting events, car rentals, ticket offices for music festivals or amusement parks): you must have the same access to these services as consumers from this country.

Example

You and your family have decided to visit an amusement park in Germany where reduced ticket prices are available for families. You have the right, like German families, to benefit from these reduced ticket prices.

If I make an online purchase from a business based in another EU Member State, are they obligated to deliver it to my country of residence?

No. Having access to products offered by a business based in another Member State than your own does not imply that he is obligated to deliver a purchase to your country of residence.

Consequentially, it is possible that you purchase goods on a website from another EU Member State (with the same conditions as a resident of this Member State) but that you must then plan their delivery yourself or organize a meet-up point with the business to retrieve your purchase.

Example

You live in France and find the perfect coffee machine at a great price on a Portuguese website. However, the website specifically states that it only delivers within Portugal. You still have the right to purchase the coffee machine, but you must then either retrieve it from the business’ physical location in Portugal or plan for its delivery to another address in Portugal from where to pick it up.

What goods and services does the geo-blocking regulation not apply to?

  • Gambling services
  • Transport services (discrimination against nationality or place of residence was already outlawed in the regulations on the rights of airline passengers, by bus, or by boat, and it was introduced in the revision of the regulation on railroad passengers)
  • Financial services (our website has more articles on this subject)
  • Works protected by an author’s rights, such as music, videos on demand, e-books, online games, and audiovisual services (read our article on the cross-border portability of digital content)

Who does this geo-blocking ban apply to?

To all businesses – private or public, large or small– established within the EU or in a third country but who directs their activities to the EU.

Will prices be the same in all EU Member States?

No. Websites can still have different interfaces per Member State with different prices. However, you cannot be automatically redirected to a national version of the website without your consent.

If you speak multiple languages and you compare the prices and products between the interfaces of different countries, you can take advantage of the offers in another country with the same conditions as a resident of that Member State. However, you must organise your purchase’s delivery yourself.

Can a business continue to block or limit access to its website?

Yes, but only if it can justify the reasons (non-possession of rights to intellectual property for another country, extra costs as a cause of the distance, prices offered by competitors or different market conditions as a result of a strong seasonal demand, vacation periods in the EU, etc.)

In the case of any legal obligation imposed on the business to block or limit access to its website, they must clearly explain the reason in your language.

Are businesses required to accept all forms of payment?

No! In principle, all businesses remain free to choose which forms of payment to accept. In addition, they can also only accept certain types of cards (ex: accepting a debit card from a certain bank and refusing a credit card from the same bank). Once the form of payment is chosen, though, the business cannot require that you have a bank with a location in their Member State of establishment.

For example, if a German business accepts credit cards and wire transfers for purchases completed online, they must accept payments made via credit cards issued from any EU Member State and wire transfers coming from any bank in another EU Member State. They cannot accept credit cards and wire transfers only from certain banks in specific EU Member States.

Who can I talk to if a seller refuses access to his website or automatically redirects me to a national version of it?

  • Each country also designated a competent authority with the power of sanction in case of negligence regarding the geo-blocking regulation. In France, this authority is the DGCCRF.
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