IMCO committee expected to back geo-blocking proposals

MEPs are expected to back calls for a ban on unjustified geo-blocking, strengthening last year's European Commission proposal.

MEPs are expected to back calls for a ban on unjustified geo-blocking | Photo credit: Google

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

25 Apr 2017

On Tuesday, members of Parliament's internal market committee will vote on draft rules to ensure that consumers buying goods from another EU country, whether online or in person, are not discriminated against, including prices, on the basis of their nationality, place of residence or temporary location.

The committee's expected approval will give its negotiating team, led by Polish EPP group member Róża Thun, a mandate to start three-way talks with the Council and the Commission, with a view to reaching an agreement on the final law.

Ahead of Tuesday's vote, the EPP group said it was in favour of limiting geo-blocking so that consumers can download music from applications, play video games or read eBooks, regardless of in which country they purchased their subscriptions.


Thun said, "What we want is simple: to end discrimination in the single market, based on people's nationality, residence or temporary location."

She asked, "Imagine that you walk into a shop and you are refused a sale based on your passport. This discrimination is not allowed in the offline world, so why should we allow it in the online world?"

Thun added, however, that there are no obligations on companies to deliver across borders in the report she has drafted.

"This proposal is not only about the protection of consumers, but also about the interests of the traders. We have to make sure that traders do not suffer an undue burden", she said.

"Our work aims at the gradual opening of the European market for consumers and traders whom we equipped with clear rules. Consumers will have better access to goods and services online and it will be less burdensome for traders to sell to consumers from different member states", Thun explained.

"Unjustified geo-blocking is the reason why national markets are so divided. It deprives customers of choice and value. It hinders businesses, so they cannot expand. 

"If we really want to tear down digital walls within Europe, we need to start with the obvious: digital content and sales of goods need to be used across borders", said Thun, highlighting that from now on, consumers will be able to purchase "more online content for less trouble".

The geo-blocking proposal is part of the eCommerce package presented by the Commission last May. The other legislative proposals in the package concern the revision of the consumer protection cooperation regulation and a proposal on cross-border parcel delivery.

In an inquiry into the eCommerce sector, 38 per cent of the responding retailers selling consumer goods and 68 per cent of digital content providers replied that they geo-block consumers located in other EU member states.


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