Parliament votes to end barriers to cross-border online shopping
- Buyers will be able to shop online in the EU without being blocked or automatically re-routed
- Traders will have to treat cross-border shoppers in the same way as local ones, granting them access to the same prices
- 63% of websites assessed in a survey do not let shoppers buy from another EU country
Online buyers will have wider and easier cross-border access to products, hotel bookings, car rentals, music festivals or leisure park tickets in the EU.
The new rules will ban the “geo-blocking” of buyers browsing websites in another EU country, so as to enable them to choose from which website they buy goods or services, without being blocked or automatically re-routed to another website due to their nationality, place of residence or even their temporary location.
Traders will have to treat online shoppers from another EU country in the same way as local ones, i.e. grant them access to the same prices or sales conditions, when they:
- buy goods (e.g. household appliances, electronics, clothes) which are delivered to a member state to which the trader offers delivery in his general conditions, or are collected at a location agreed by both parties in an EU country in which the trader offers such option (traders would not have to deliver in all EU countries, but buyers should have the option to pick up the package in a place agreed with the trader),
- receive electronically supplied services not protected by copyright, such as cloud services, firewalls, data warehousing, website hosting, or
- buy a service which is supplied in the premises of the trader or in a physical location where the trader operates, e.g. hotel stays, sports events, car rentals, music festivals or leisure park tickets.
Treating shoppers differently based on the place of issuance of a credit or debit card will also be forbidden. While traders remain free to accept whatever payment means they want, they may not discriminate within a specific payment brand based on nationality.
Copyrighted content excluded for now
Digital copyrighted content, such as e-books, downloadable music or online games, will not be covered by the new rules for the time being. However, the EU Commission must assess within two years after the entry into force of the regulation whether the ban on geo-blocking should be widened to include such content, as well as audio-visual and transport services, which are also currently excluded.
Róża Thun (EPP, PL), rapporteur, said: "This new EU law on geo-blocking is an important step towards an even more competitive and integrated Digital Single Market, for both consumers and traders. It also represents another milestone in the fight against the discrimination of consumers based on their nationality or place of residence, which should never be taking place in our united Europe. We have proven that the European Union can deliver concrete results for the citizens all over Europe, bringing positive changes in their daily lives."
The new rules were approved by 557 votes to 89, with 33 abstentions.
The agreement on the geo-blocking regulation stills needs to be formally approved by Council. The new rules will be applicable nine months from the day of its publication in the EU Official Journal, i.e. before the end of this year (2018).
63% of websites do not let shoppers buy from another EU country, according to findings of a “mystery shopping” study carried out by the Commission. For tangible goods, geo-blocking was highest for electrical household appliances (86%), while for services it was for online reservations of offline leisure sector, such as sports event tickets (40%).
EU consumers show growing demand for cross-border online shopping. In the last ten years the share of Europeans buying online has almost doubled.
Presented as part of the Digital Single Market, the regulation to end unjustified geo-blocking was included in the e-commerce package, together with legislation on cross-border parcel delivery services, to be voted in plenary in March 2018, and a law to strengthen enforcement of consumers' rights, which was already approved by Parliament in November 2017.