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EU: The end of geoblocking for online retailers

The European Union plans to force online retailers operating in the region to make their goods available to all EU consumers, regardless of where they live.

Online retailers use geoblocking to block consumers from specific countries from their shop. As part of its efforts to create a unified digital market, which include 24 legislative proposals, the European Union wishes to take measures to stop this practice. A law was first put into discussion in May 2017.

The agreement between the European Parliament, the EU’s 28 member states and the Commission would allow EU consumers to buy products and services online from any EU country. The law would apply to e-commerce sites including giants Amazon and eBay.

Consumers must consent to being redirected to a country-specific website. Companies are not, however, obligated to offer cross-border delivery.

Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip, responsible for the digital single market, said "Today we put an end to unjustified discrimination when shopping online. This is excellent news for consumers. With the new rules, Europeans will be able to choose from which website they wish to buy, without being blocked or re-routed. This will be a reality by Christmas next year.", as reported by the European Commission’s Press release.

Copyright-protected content, including music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple’s iTunes, electronic books, television series and movies, are not impacted by the new law.

The European Parliament had hoped for the law to cover those services. “It is especially frustrating for consumers who belong to a linguistic minority and would like to watch series or films in their own language” Monique Goyens, the director general of European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), said in a statement. However, the music industries successfully demonstrated that this could provoke price to rise in countries where the services are cheaper.

The European Parliament and member states are expected to approve the new legislation early next year. It would enter into force by the end of 2018.

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