During christmas time, shopping online becomes indispensable for many consumers. Whether you get presents delivered to your home or book a trip for the family, the internet makes many things much easier. All the more frustrating if you suddenly come across barriers - which is unfortunately not uncommon if you order cross-border.
Payment with an Austrian debit card is denied, delivery to Austria not possible or you are charged higher prices than nationals. All those problems can be summarised under one word: Geo-blocking. Discriminations based on nationality or place of residence are prohibited within the EU. A principle that will apply to the web as well, according to an agreement reached by the European Council, Parliament and Commission.
Therefore, our christmas shopping in 2018 will be "barrier-free"? Not entirely. In order to find a balance between the interests of consumers and traders, there are a few limitations. The new rules set three specific situations:
- The sale of goods without physical delivery. Example: A Belgian customer wishes to buy a refrigerator and finds the best deal on a German website. The customer will be entitled to order the product and collect it at the trader's premises or organise delivery himself to his home. The trader is therefore not obliged to provide the delivery.
- The sale of electronically supplied services. Example: A Bulgarian consumer wishes to buy hosting services for her website from a Spanish company. She will now have access to the service, can register and buy this service without having to pay additional fees compared to a Spanish consumer.
- The sale of services provided in a specific physical location. Example: An Italian family can buy a trip directly to an amusement park in France without being redirected to an Italian website. The family can get their tickets at the best available price and doesn't have to order from the Italian website.
The EU Commission provides information about geo-blocking on its respective website.