As of December 3, 2018, Regulation (EU) No 302/2018 issued on February 28, 2018 comes fully into effect. The Regulation affects electronic commerce (“E-commerce”) within the European market by imposing restrictive measures on the use of unjustified geographical blocking (“geo-blocking”) and other forms of discrimination based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market.
The Regulation is part of a set of European regulatory measures aimed, on the one hand, at controlling and regulating the free movement of goods and services within the EU’s internal market and, on the other hand, at the better protection of consumers and customers in general. The overriding objective of these measures is to help realise the full potential of the European market as an area without internal borders, by preventing businesses from artificially segmenting it in order to limit the right of customers to benefit from a wider choice of goods and services and to access the most favourable conditions offered in the EU’s market.
The Regulation prohibits all obstacles which are inconsistent with the freedoms of the EU’s internal market and which are typically set up by businesses operating in one Member State with the intention of unjustifiably blocking or limiting access to their online storefronts (e.g. web sites and apps) by customers from other Member States. Along with these practices, the Regulation also bans businesses from imposing any conditions of access to their goods and services which would differ for customers across Member States. This applies to conditions imposed both online and offline and to the extent that they are not objectively justified (e.g. when the adoption of different conditions is necessary in order to ensure compliance with a legal requirement laid down in EU law, or in the laws of a Member State in accordance with EU law, to which the business is subject as a consequence of operating in that Member State).
The ban on geo-blocking is an important element of the digital single market strategy.
From now on, traders and retailers will be obliged to give customers access to goods and services on the same terms across the whole EU, wherever they may be connecting from.
Within two years of the entry into force of these new rules, the European Commission will carry out a first assessment of their impact on the internal market. The assessment may be accompanied by the expansion of the new rules to include application to certain electronically supplied services which offer copyrighted content, such as downloadable music, e-books, software and online games as well as services in sectors such as transport and audio-visual, which are currently excluded from the application of the Regulation.