ECC Ireland welcomes new EU rules ending unjustified geo-blocking
Dublin, 4th December 2018 – The European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland has welcomed new geo-blocking rules, which apply from 3rd December, as a great step forward for consumer protection as online traders can no longer unjustly discriminate against consumers trying to access goods and services within the European Union based on nationality or place of residence.
Regulation (EU) 2018/302, which is part of the European Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy, bans unjustified geo-blocking that restricts consumers’ ability to access a website or complete a purchase, reroutes them to a country specific website, or they are refused delivery or possibility of payment because of their location.
As regards disputes that may arise between consumers and traders in relation to the application of the geo-blocking Regulation, ECC Ireland, which provides free information and support to consumers with cross-border complaints, has been designated the national contact point responsible for providing consumers with practical assistance, whilst the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), has been designated as the body responsible for enforcement and monitoring compliance with the Regulation in Ireland.
Commenting on the commencement of the new Regulation, Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen, said, “The Geo-blocking Regulation represents another important gain for Irish consumers from Ireland’s implementation of the Digital Single Market Strategy. It creates a clear, transparent and stable legal environment for online Business-to-Consumer service providers and their business users. With the commencement of the Geo-blocking Regulation Irish consumers will now enjoy increased price transparency as they will be able to compare offerings across the entire EU to access the best prices and sales conditions. It also provides Member States with the necessary structures, powers and procedures to ensure that national enforcement authorities can deal effectively with widespread infringements of consumer protection laws which carry the risk of harming consumer welfare on a wide scale.”
ECC Ireland spokesperson, Martina Nee, said: ‘Over the years, ECC Ireland has received a lot of complaints in relation to geo-blocking. Now, just in time for Christmas shopping, the Regulation will give all EU consumers, equal rights to access a trader’s goods or services, under the same terms, irrespective of their location. This will greatly increase the choice available to consumers when shopping online and improve price transparency thereby assisting consumers to access the best offers.
Geo-blocking occurs when a consumer wants to browse products or services on a trader’s website but is denied access. This can include the practice of rerouting to a country specific version which may display different products or prices. Even when consumers can access their preferred site, they may be prevented from finalising the purchase or are required to pay by debit or credit card from a particular country. The Regulation will prevent this behaviour by prohibiting the practice of automatically rerouting consumers to country specific websites and banning unjustified discrimination in relation to payment methods.
Although EU-based traders will no longer be permitted to refuse to sell to consumers based on their nationality or place of residence, the new rules do not require such traders to offer delivery of the goods to consumers who live in a different country. Certain goods and services are excluded from the scope of the Regulation, including transport services, retail financial services and healthcare service. Importantly, the Regulation does not cover the provision of (non-audiovisual) copyright protected content services (such as e-books, online music, software and videogames). Audio-visual services also do not fall within the scope of the Regulation.’
Notes to Editor:
More information about geo-blocking can be found on the following links:
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has also produced a geo-blocking guide for businesses.
ECC Ireland is part of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), which covers 30 countries (all EU countries plus Norway and Iceland), and offers a free and confidential information and advice service to the public on their rights as consumers, assisting consumers with cross-border disputes. ECC Ireland is co-financed by the European Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.