Start Finance Geoblocking


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With the Geoblocking Regulation, the EU wants to eliminate digital borders in the online sector. Companies should check if they are affected by the regulation. Because a violation can have consequences.

The borders in Europe should fall. That’s the way the European Union wants it. But especially on the Internet – the place that knows virtually no borders – consumers are often limited to their member state. The reason: online providers are pushing digital boundaries – with measures that are commonly summarized under the term geo-blocking.

This should be over now. In February 2018, the EU passed the so-called Geoblocking Regulation. However, it should only apply from the beginning of December – so that companies can adapt to it. The regulation basically contains three non-discrimination directives that are directed against specific forms of geo-blocking.

Same access to the homepage

First, providers of goods or services should not deny or restrict access to their online user interfaces, such as websites or apps, due to their nationality or place of residence. Forwarding should also no longer be allowed without user consent. If blocking or forwarding is essential (for example, to comply with applicable law), providers must clearly explain this to users.
Same rules for everyone

Furthermore, customers in general terms and conditions may not be treated differently based on their nationality or place of residence. This prohibition is aimed at services that are typically provided on the Internet, such as cloud and hosting services or at least there are initiated, such as hotel bookings or car rentals.

It also affects online commerce. Traders who deliver or make available goods for collection in a particular Member State must now also offer this to customers from other Member States. But not more. In the future, a trader will not have to deliver to Member States where he has not yet offered a delivery. For this reason, a dealer, for example, will not be obliged to deliver abroad in the future if he has only delivered in Germany so far.

In general, the regulation does not establish a general obligation to conclude contracts. The provider can refuse customers in the future, the contract, as long as the reasons do not follow the nationality or place of residence. For example, if the customer is not creditworthy, the provider must still not conclude a contract with him.

Same terms of payment

Finally, customers from one Member State must have the same payment options as customers from other Member States. This does not mean that a provider has to offer all payment options. He is still free to accept certain types of means of payment. Only if he offers them does that have to apply equally to customers from all Member States.

Exceptions: copyright must be differentiated

The regulation contains some exceptions that will lead to geo-blocking in certain areas. These include finance, audiovisual, transport, healthcare, social affairs and digital access to copyrighted content. The latter mainly concerns the important area of ​​streaming and download offers as well as online games. So providers of such media may still use geo-blocking, but that also has limitations.

For one thing, since the beginning of April, they have had to comply with the so-called Portability Ordinance. According to this, providers of fee-based online services must provide their users with the service as usual, even for temporary stays in other EU countries. On the other hand, the exception in the Geoblocking Regulation only applies insofar as geo-blocking actually protects copyright-relevant content. For example, if the homepage of a streaming service does not contain such content, users from all Member States must have the same access.

And finally, it depends on the delivery of the content. Only with digital content, for example downloads, can a provider apply geo-blocking. On the other hand, if he sells the content on a data medium, for example on a DVD, this does not apply.

In addition, the exceptions are not set in stone. By the spring of 2020, the EU wants to review the exemptions again. It is quite possible that the ban on geo-blocking could then be extended to the excluded areas