News & Views

Equal Treatment for Online Shoppers within the EU

5 December 2017

Author: Ilona Tulokas

Do you, as a consumer, find Christmas shopping exhausting? Should that be the case, we might have good news for you: a few weeks ago, the European Parliament, the Council, and the Commission confirmed that a political agreement to end unjustified “geoblocking” in buying products or services online within the EU has been reached. This means that online sellers will, by the end of 2018, no longer be allowed to discriminate against consumers on the basis of their nationality or place of residence by denying their access to local websites or by not accepting credit cards issued abroad, for instance.

According to the proposed rules, online shoppers that are from a different EU country than the trader must be treated as local customers in the three following situations:

(i) the sale of goods without physical delivery,

(ii) the sale of electronically supplied services, and

(iii) the sale of services provided in a specific physical location.

The proposed regulation does not impose obligations to harmonise prices or to offer physical delivery across borders. Neither does it force companies to expand their businesses to other EU countries if the geoblocking is objectively justified, for example due to financial or legal reasons. Digital copyrighted content, such as e-books and music and video games, has also been kept out of the scope of the proposed regulation – at least for now.

The proposal for the regulation on geoblocking was presented in May 2016 as part of the Digital Single Market strategy, but the final regulation still needs some further approvals in the EU. The proposed geoblocking rules complete some other EU level actions accomplished within the Digital Single Market strategy this year, such as the removal of roaming payments for mobile phones and the cross-border portability of online content services.

If your company sells consumer goods or services online, it will become topical for the company to have the terms and conditions of the online store reviewed in order to ensure that practices and procedures related thereto are in line with the proposed reform.