The Geo-blocking Regulation(1) enters into force on 23 March 2018 in all EU Member States, and will apply from 3 December 2018. This means that companies have nine months to make sure that their internet sales practices comply with the requirements of the Regulation.
Geo-blocking is a discriminatory practice of preventing online customers from accessing and purchasing products or services from a website based in another EU Member State. The aim of the Geo-blocking Regulation is to abolish discrimination in e-commerce based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. The Regulation is part of the Commission’s strategy that emphasises the importance of digitalisation and digital economy in the internal market.
As of 3 December 2018, online traders must not discriminate between customers with regard to general terms and conditions. Furthermore, traders will not be allowed to apply different payment methods for reasons of nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. It should, however, be noted that the Geo-blocking Regulation does not prohibit price differentiation – as opposed to price discrimination – and that online traders can offer different general conditions and target certain customer groups in specific territories.
The Regulation does not require any changes to supply systems that are permissible under competition law. Additionally, sales restrictions that are permitted in accordance with certain block exemptions will remain unaffected after the Geo-blocking Regulation’s entry into force.
Finally, the Regulation includes a review clause according to which two years after the new rules enter into force, the Commission will carry out a first evaluation of their impact on the internal market. In addition, the evaluation will include the possible application of the Geo-blocking Regulation to certain electronically supplied services which offer copyrighted content. The Regulation does not yet apply to copyright protected content such as e-books, downloadable music and online games.
(1) Regulation (EU) 2018/302 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 February 2018 on addressing unjustified geo-blocking and other forms of discrimination based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market and amending Regulations (EC) No 2006/2004 and (EU) 2017/2394 and Directive 2009/22/EC.