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EU 'geo-blocking' laws now in force

New laws that prohibit online businesses in the EU from applying practices that discriminate against consumers on the basis of their nationality, place or residence or place of establishment have entered into force.27 Mar 2018

Online consumers are often blocked from accessing offers in other countries by being re-routed back to a country-specific website or by being asked to buy

goods or services using a local debit or credit card. Under the new EU regulation, 'geo-blocking' of this kind will now generally be prohibited.

The regulation on unjustified geo-blocking came into force on 22 March, but the rules do not take effect until 3 December this year.

Businesses should use the transition period to "adapt and introduce necessary changes to comply" with the new rules, the European Commission said. Those rules will allow consumers "to find the best deals online when buying goods and services across the EU without being discriminated based on nationality and residence", it said.

In a joint statement, EU commissioners Andrus Ansip, Elżbieta Bieńkowska and Mariya Gabriel said: "From 3 December onwards, European citizens will enjoy the freedom of shopping goods and services online. This is not only the end of unjustified discrimination but also it opens new opportunities for the European companies to grow and innovate."

"Ending unjustified geo-blocking is part of our efforts to encourage e-commerce across borders in the EU, along with more transparent parcel delivery prices, stronger consumer protection and simplified VAT rules," they said.

Ansip is the EU commissioner for the digital single market, Bieńkowska is the commissioner for the internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs, and Gabriel is commissioner in charge of the digital economy and society.