Have you ever tried buying something from an online shop, and you were restricted from accessing a particular product or from paying for the product or service? You have probably experienced Geo-Blocking.

Geo-Blocking is a technology that restricts access to internet content based on your geographical location. It is a discriminatory practice that prevents online customers from accessing and purchasing products or services from a website based in another Member State. Online sellers use different practices to create these barriers.

As of 3rd December of 2018, Regulation 2018/302 became applicable in all Member States. This Regulation aims at preventing and reducing situations where online traders unjustly discriminate against consumers based on their nationality or place of residence, thus increasing consumers’ access to goods and services within the internal market.

Geo-blocking is when:

  • You are denied access to a foreign online shop due to your location:
  • You are redirected to another version of the same website without your permission:
  • You are prevented from purchasing products or services:
  • You are subject to different pricing than buyers from another country:
  • A payment method issued by your country of residence may be refused, such as a credit card.

Access to Online Interfaces: A trader should not block or limit your access through his online interfaces such as websites or apps for reasons related to your nationality, place of residence, or establishment.

Furthermore, a trader cannot redirect a customer to a different version of its interface without your explicit consent. Usually, a pop-up appears on your screen, explicitly stating that you will be redirected to a different site if you wish to continue. Even though the customer consents to be redirected, the original interface to which the customer initially sought access shall remain easily accessible. For example, a Polish Company must not restrict access to an Italian Customer and redirect him to the Italian version unless the Italian customer consents.  

Access to goods or services: The Regulation defines specific situations where you cannot be denied access to the goods or services of the trader for reasons relating to their nationality, residence, or establishment. These are:

  • Goods delivered in a Member State to which the trader offers delivery or are collected at an agreed location. Suppose you are browsing online to purchase a television and found the best deal on an Italian website. With this Regulation, you can purchase the product and collect it at the trader’s premises. Furthermore, you can organize the delivery yourself if the trader does not offer to ship to your location.
  • Electronically supplied services such as cloud, data warehousing and website hosting. Consider you want to purchase hosting services from a German Supplier. Through this Regulation, you can access this service, register and purchase without paying any extra fees compared to other German consumers.
  • Services such as hotel accommodation and car rental received in the country where the trader operates. For example, a Maltese couple visiting a Norwegian theme park shall benefit from the same family discount offered to other Norwegian clients on the entry price.

Non-Discrimination for reasons related to payment: In principle, traders are free to decide which means of payment they wish to accept. The Regulation applies to:

  • Payment transactions made using an electronic transaction by credit transfer, direct debit or a card-based payment instrument of the same brand and category of card, i.e., a credit or debit card of a given company
  • Where the authentication requirements are met
  • The payment transactions are in a currency that the trader accepts

Once the trader chooses the type of payment, then it should be available to all customers without any discrimination or applying different conditions of payment based on the customers’ nationality, place of residence or establishment or the location of the payment account, the establishment of the payment service or the place of issue of the payment instrument. 

The online shop cannot refuse your payment based on your location and must treat all their customers equally. Therefore, if local clients are not subject to order limits, you, as a foreign consumer, should not be subject to order limits.

The Geo-Blocking Rules apply to both private and business consumers. These rules apply to sales activities within the 27 EU Member States, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The other countries are not obligated to comply with the rules of the geo-blocking regulation.

Yes. The Geo-Blocking rules apply to both products and digital services. However, geo-blocking does not apply to:

  • Non-economic services of general interest
  • Electronic services
  • Financial services
  • Transport services
  • Healthcare services
  • Temporary employment services
  • Audio-visual services
  • Notary services
  • Private security services
  • Gambling activities
  • Public authority services
  • Domestic purchases (the ban applies only to purchases made from a foreign web shop)
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