EU online shopping to get cheaper and easier

EU online shopping to get cheaper and easier
By Catherine Hardy
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Geo-blocking is to be lifted on some goods bought via cross-border shopping. But the legislation does not yet cover audiovisual content providers.

  • 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, charging them the same prices
  • 63% of websites assessed do not let shoppers buy from another EU country
  • Streaming of music, audiovisual content and games not yet included

Online shoppers are to get broader and easier access to products, hotel bookings, car rentals and tickets for events which are sold in another EU country.

New rules will ban "geo-blocking" of consumers browsing websites in another EU member state.

This will allow them to choose from which website they buy goods or services without being blocked or automatically re-routed to a site linked to their place of residence.

Traders will have to treat online shoppers from another EU country in the same way as local ones. They must be granted access to the same prices or terms of sale.

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.

The regulation to end unjustified geo-blocking was presented as part of the Digital Single Market legisation.

The new rules were approved by 557 votes to 89, with 33 abstentions.

Are any goods excluded from the list?

Yes. Copyrighted content remains excluded for the time being.

This means e-books, downloadable music or online games, will not be covered by the new rules for the time being. Audiovisual and transport services also remain geo-blocked.

However, the EU must re-assess this ban after the regulation has been in force for two years.

What's the story?

A "mystery shopping" study carried out by the Commission suggests 63% of websites do not let shoppers buy from another EU country.

Geo-blocking was highest for:

  • electrical household appliances (86%)
  • online leisure sector reservations (40%)

There is growing demand from EU consumers for cross-border online shopping. The share of Europeans buying online has almost doubled in the last ten years.


What is the next step?

The agreement on the geo-blocking regulation stills needs to be formally approved by the European Council. 

The new rules will be applicable nine months from the day of their publication in the EU Official Journal. That means before the end of 2018.

What they are saying

"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," - **Róża Thun **(EPP, PL), rapporteur.

Additional sources • European Parliament

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