Even in the digital world, the borders of the EU countries can still very often make their presence felt. The EU, however, is trying its best to dismantle these border blockades, including when it comes to online shopping. Online retailers will have to adapt to new rules in the future given that, on Tuesday, 6 February, the European Parliament approved the Parliament’s and Council’s regulation “on measures to combat geoblocking and other forms of discrimination based on customers’ nationality, residence, or place of establishment within the internal market (…).” Traders must thereby treat online buyers from another EU country in the same way as they would domestic customers. This will allow consumers to choose the website on which they purchase goods or services without being blocked by their nationality, residence, or temporary residence, and without being automatically re-routed to another website. As of yet, digitally copyrighted content such as e-books, music, or online games are not covered by the new rules. However, within two years, the European Commission will assess whether the scope of the prohibition of geoblocking should be extended to include such content.
Following on from intensive trilogue negotiations, a compromise has now been reached that has managed to clear up much of the ambiguity of the Commission’s original proposal. The revised regulation deals with the terms and conditions of online retailers and the way that these are communicated to users in web shops and online marketplaces. Overall, when compared to the Commission’s draft, the EU regulation on geoblocking for online traders provides a number of clarifications for the legally compliant processing of transactions. However, the central problem of the regulation – a fragmentation of European consumer protection under the sovereignty of national organizations and authorities – is not addressed.
The European Parliament and Council had already reached a preliminary agreement at the end of November 2017. The new rules will enter into force nine months after their publication in the EU’s Official Journal.