On 2 March 2018,  the Geo-blocking Regulation was published in the Official Journal (Regulation (EU) 2018/302 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 February 2018 on addressing unjustified geo-blocking and other forms of discrimination based on customers' nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market).

The Geo-blocking Regulation prevents the blocking of consumers from accessing commercial websites from a EU member state other than the one of their nationality or place of residence, enabling them to choose the website from which they wish to buy goods or services without being blocked or automatically re-routed to another website.

The objective is to remove discrimination on access to prices, sales or payment conditions when buying products and services in another EU country. Traders will not be allowed to block or limit customers' access to their online interface for reasons of nationality, location or place of residence.

Certain services are excluded from the ambit of the Geo-blocking Regulation including services where the main feature is the provision of access to and use of copyright-protected content, or the selling of copyright-protected works in an intangible form, such as music streaming services, e-books, online games and software.  Other services such as financial, audio-visual, transport, healthcare and social services are also excluded, in line with the EU Services Directive.

Unjustified discrimination of customers in relation to payment methods is forbidden under the regulation.  Price differentiation (as distinct from price discrimination) will not be prohibited, so traders are free to offer different general conditions, including prices, and to target certain groups of customers in specific territories.  Traders will not be obliged to deliver goods to customers outside the member state to which they offer delivery.

As a general rule, the new regulation will prevail in cases of conflict with competition law. But the right of suppliers to impose active sales restrictions will not be affected.

The Commission intends to evaluate whether the Geo-blocking Regulation should extend to services which offer copyrighted content such as downloadable music, e-books, software and online games.  The Geo-blocking Regulation will come into force in November 2018.

March 13, 2018

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