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CMA to enforce 'geo-blocking' rules in the UK

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be responsible for the UK enforcement of new rules on 'geo-blocking' set to take effect early next month.15 Nov 2018

Geo-blocking refers to practices used by online sellers to restrict online cross-border sales based on nationality, residence or place of establishment.

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. 

However, EU law makers moved to prohibit unjustified geo-blocking, finalising the Geo-blocking Regulation earlier this year. Those rules take effect on 3 December, and the UK government has now laid new legislation before the UK parliament to provide for their enforcement in the UK. The Geo-Blocking (Enforcement) Regulations 2018 are also due to come into force on 3 December.

The new UK regulations also contain provision for customers to raise a claim against businesses where those companies breach certain provisions of the new geo-blocking rules relating to access to online interfaces, access to goods or services or non-discrimination for reasons related to payment, and where that breach results in the customer suffering loss or damage.

The European Commission published guidance in September to explain how the new geo-blocking rules will apply in practice. It confirmed the rules can apply to certain business-to-business transactions, including in the context of cross-border cloud computing contracts.