Hooray! The European Commission has voted to end to geo-blocking, the pesky geographical restrictions that limit your online shopping. Geo-blocking allows websites to tailor the price and availability of a product to the customers’ nationality or place of residence – annoyingly, it’s a practice that a lot of European websites engage in.
Recent changes in EU law means that traders can no longer block or limit customers’ access to their services based on nationality or IP address. Big online retailers such as Amazon and Apple, which currently have no dedicated Croatia store, will be forced to make stock available to all EU countries. Under the law, retailers aren’t required to provide cross-border delivery, but this is something customers can sort out themselves. Example: a Croatian wants to buy a new iPhone and finds the best deal on a German website. This customer is entitled to buy the product and collect it or organise delivery with a courier.
Unjustified payment discrimination will also be banned. In English? This means that websites are forbidden from diverting customers to their domestic site. If you find a subscription is cheaper in Romania, and you’re the resident of another EU country, you can go ahead and buy that bargain subscription. The music industry is grappling with this one, arguing that it would raise the price of music-streaming subscriptions in poorer countries. This will also apply to location-based services like flights, car booking and hotel rooms.
Ending this greedy practice has long been a priority for the EU as it aims to strengthen its digital single market across the 28-nation bloc. This decision follows last year’s legislation that allows digital travellers to use online media services they’ve subscribed to at home in an EU country where the services aren’t available – essentially, this means that you can binge-watch Netflix shows wherever you are, and listen to Spotify on holiday.
That said, new regulations don’t span copyright-protected content – yet. Streaming services like Spotify, iMusic and Amazon Prime, plus e-books, online games and software are all excluded from the scope of the regulation. Currently, if you want to buy Adobe Photoshop, you have to leave Croatia and hop over the border to Slovenia. Ridiculous, eh? The EU plan to reassess this exemption in 2020.