New EU Regulation to Ban Unjustified Geo-blocking at Turn of the Year

The EU Council has approved a new geo-blocking regulation, which bans unjustified country restrictions to consumers’ access to online shopping sites and restrictions to the use of foreign payment instruments in online purchases. The regulation seeks to promote the EU’s digital internal market and increase consumer choice. The regulation is part of a Commission strategy to update the EU internal market for the digital age.

Companies will not be allowed to block or restrict customers’ access to online sales sites or their different country versions or apply discriminatory general terms and conditions or payment terms based on the on the nationality, residence or location of customers. However, companies will still be allowed to restrict a customers’ access to an online shop if so required by national legislation. Such restrictions must be justified to the customer.

The geo-blocking regulation does not ban price differentiation or offerings targeted to particular customer groups in particular areas. The regulation will also have no effect on distribution systems permitted in competition law or on sales restrictions implemented within such systems as permitted by the block exemption regulation.

For the time being, the regulation does not apply to services relating to copyrighted content, such as e-books, music streaming services or television programming. However, the effects of the new rules and the inclusion of copyrighted content into the scope of the regulation will be reassessed two years after the entry into force of the regulation.

The regulation is planned to enter into force at the turn of 2018 and 2019.