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.

You wanted to make a purchase from an Italian website, but once you entered your French address the price doubled? You wanted to buy from a German online shop but they refused to deliver to France? You wanted to make a purchase on a Danish website but it is “reserved for Scandinavians”?

Shop like a local

Since December 3rd, 2018, you can 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.

Attention: The business is not required to deliver the purchase to our residence country.

What does the end of geo-blocking mean for you as a consumer?

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 in which your payment means is issued

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

Example: You reside in France and connect to the website of a trader based in another EU Member state and which is written 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 do so. 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.

Can I force a European seller to deliver to me in my country of residence?

No. Having access to products offered by a business based in another EU Member state than your own does not imply that the trader is obligated to deliver your purchase.

Although you can purchase on a website based in another EU Member state, the business is not obliges to deliver your purchase to you in your residence country e.g. France if it does not usually deliver there. You will have to organise the transport yourself and either go pick up your purchase at an agreed location or organise you own means of cross-border delivery.

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 traders' physical location in Portugal if possible, or plan for its delivery to another address in Portugal from where to pick it up.

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 offeredto Bulgarian consumers (such as, for example, its price).  

  • For services provided in the traders' 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.

For information on the portability of online consent services, read our article here.

What goods and services are not concerned?

  • Gambling services
  • Transport services (discrimination against nationality or place of residence was already outlawed in the regulations on the rights of passengers, by air, bus, or boat, and it was introduced in the revision of the regulation on railroad passengers which is still ongoing)
  • Financial services
  • 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 directing 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 rules are the same for all customers. For example, the trader cannot require that you have a bank with a location in their Member state of establishment.

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 a website or automatically redirects me to a national version of it?

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