Geo-blocking is a discriminatory practice that prevents online customers from accessing and purchasing products or services from a website based in another EU member state.
On February 27, 2018, the European Council adopted EU Regulation N° 2018/302, also known as the « Geo-blocking Regulation », which has come into effect on December 3, 2018. The Regulation’s aim is to remove discrimination based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. As such, traders will not be allowed to apply different payment conditions for customers for reasons of nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. Furthermore, they will will not be allowed to block or limit customers’ access to their online interface for reasons of nationality or place of residence.
The Geo-blocking Regulation is an important piece of the EU digital single market strategy in the context of the 4th industrial revolution and supplements other initiatives such as the end of roaming charges for mobile phones, the introduction of cross-border portability for online subscriptions (EU Regulation 2017/1128, which came into effect on April 1st, 2018) or the cross-border parcel delivery services (EU Regulation (EU) 2018/644, which came into effect on May 22, 2018).
Like GDPR, the Geo-Blocking Regulation has an extraterritorial scope and applies to all traders offering their goods or services to consumers in the EU, regardless of whether they are established in the EU or not.
Some services are excluded from the scope of the Regulation, such as services linked to copyright-protected content or works in an intangible form – such as music streaming services and e-books, financial, audio-visual, transport, healthcare and social services.
In 2020, and based on a review clause, the Commission will carry out a first evaluation of the Regulation’s impact on the internal market, including a possible application of the Regulation to certain electronically supplied services that offer copyrighted content.
It is important to be aware that, unlike price discrimination, price differentiation will not be prohibited. Therefore traders will remain free to offer different general conditions, including prices, and to target certain groups of customers in specific territories. Moreover, traders will not be obliged to deliver goods to customers outside the member state to which they offer delivery.
The EU Commission services issued a Questions & Answers providing practical guidance on the main provisions of the Geo-blocking Regulation which is addressed to traders, consumers and Member States.