MCA Guidelines on unjustified discrimination of online sales based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market – Regulation (EU) 2018/302

 

Objectives of the Regulation

Geographically based restrictions undermine online shopping and cross-border sales in the Digital Single Market. Regulation (EU) 2018/302 (‘the ‘Geo-Blocking Regulation’) addresses unjustified on line sales discrimination based on customers' nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market. The ban on geo-blocking is thus an important element of the digital single market strategy.

The Geo-Blocking Regulation amends Regulations (EC) 2006/2004 and (EU) 2017/2394 and Directive 2009/22/EC.

What is ‘unjustified geo-blocking’?

Unjustified geo-blocking refers to discrimination between EU customers to segment markets along national borders and to increase profits to the detriment of customers residing in other member states.

The Geo-Blocking Regulation

The Regulation defines three situations which are defined as unjustified geo-blocking:

  • 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 sale of electronically supplied services - Example: A Maltese 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 visits a French theme park and wishes to take advantage of a family discount on the price of the entry tickets. The discounted price will be available for the Italian family.

 

The Geo-Blocking Regulation, non-audiovisual and audiovisual services

The provision of non-audiovisual copyright protected content services (such as e-books, on-line music, software and videogames) is not subject to the Regulation's prohibition of applying different general conditions of access for reasons related to a customer's nationality, residence or establishment, including by refusing to provide such services to customers from other Member States in the specific cases listed in Article 4. These services, however, remain subject to the Regulation's prohibition to block or limit access to online interfaces on the basis of the nationality, residence or establishment of the customer. Moreover, where cross-border provision of these services takes place, notwithstanding their exclusion from Article 4 of the Regulation, the trader is prevented from discriminating the electronic payment means on the basis of their "nationality".

On the other hand, the Regulation as a whole does not apply to the activities excluded from the scope of the Services Directive. Hence audiovisual services are not within the scope of the Regulation.

It shall be noted that the Regulation prescribes a review within 2 years after its entry into force, which will focus on assessing its scope.

Further information

For further information on the Geo-Blocking Regulation, please contact the MCA on consumeraffairs@mca.org.mt or on telephone number +356 2133 6840. One may alternatively contact the European Consumer Centre of Malta (ECC Malta) on info@mccaa.org.mt or on telephone number +356 2395 2000.

 Last Updated on 23/04/2020