Tuesday

18th Sep 2018

Focus

EU bans 'geo-blocking' - but not (yet) for audiovisual

  • Spotify offers music catalogues that may differ from EU country to EU country. Under new rules, consumers will have the right to know the differences (but not the right to buy access to another country's catalogue) (Photo: Heidi Sandstrom)

Negotiators from three EU institutions reached a political compromise on Monday evening (20 November) that will ban certain types of 'geo-blocking' within a year.

Discrimination based on a consumer's location, or geo-blocking, will no longer be allowed in the EU for online sales of three specific services: goods without physical delivery; electronically-supplied services; and services provided in a specific physical location.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

However, the new EU regulation agreed on Monday will not cover geo-blocking of videos.

The European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council of the EU – representing the national governments – reached their agreement 18 months after the publication of the legislative proposal.

In a press release, the Commission gave some examples in the three categories which will be banned by the end of next year.

Example one: "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."

Example two: "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."

Example three: "An Italian family can buy a trip directly to an amusement park in France without being redirected to an Italian website."

This should prevent consumers in any EU country being offered a different price or service based on their location.

'Video unavailable'

Many internet users will at one point have come across audiovisual content that is not accessible in their country.

It is also a well-known bugbear of European Commission vice-president for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip, who repeatedly has said he "hates" geo-blocking.

But the regulation does make baby steps towards opening up copyrighted content like games, music, and ebooks.

The legislation will give EU consumers the right to know what a seller offers in other EU countries.

Many internet services, for example music streaming service Spotify, offer different catalogues in different countries.

A European Commission official, who briefed journalists on Tuesday (21 November) on condition of anonymity, confirmed an example given by this website: a consumer with a subscription to Spotify in Belgium will have the right to know what is being offered in Germany.

The new legislation does not give the consumer the right to buy access to the service, but the idea behind this new transparency rule is that it could give consumers leverage, or at least lets them make an informed choice.

"Obviously they are not going to negotiate individual terms and conditions with Spotify," said the Commission official, followed by a chuckle, probably because popular internet companies are able to dictate their terms on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

"But it gives them information which then allows them to decide whether they think they get a reasonable offer, yes or no."

The right-to-know clause does not cover video services like Netflix.

But the Commission official said that its inclusion opens up the possibility for the EU legislators to come back to the issue at a later stage.

She said it was agreed that the Commission should review the legislation within two years, to possibly propose including other services in the anti-geo-blocking regulation.

The official added that the Commission was "acutely aware" of what EU consumers want.

She said it hoped to use the experience with sales of services that are covered in the new regulation to convince member states of including audiovisual services.

Armed with more data, the Commission could then propose to ban geo-blocking for copyrighted content as well.

Agenda

Western Balkans and Brexit restart This Week

The EU Commission will unveil its strategy for the Western Balkans in an effort to keep the strategically important region close. It will be a busy week at the EP with geo-blocking – almost – coming to an end.

News in Brief

  1. EU investigating BMW, Daimler and VW 'collusion'
  2. Spain wants special Gibraltar chapter in Brexit deal
  3. Italy cancels Vienna talks over South Tyrol 'dual citizenship'
  4. Britain will not accept Brexit deal with Irish Sea border
  5. Slovakia seeks witness to journalist killing
  6. Finland's Stubb considers running for EU commission job
  7. Romania ponders anti same-sex marriage referendum
  8. EU lawyers back Slovenia in Croatia border dispute

Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?

The success of the new general data protection regulation (GDPR) will depend on whether data protection authorities enforce the new rules - which, in turn, will be at least partly determined by how many people they employ.

Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline

The EU starts enforcing its general data protection regulation on 25 May - but Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia won't be ready. The delay will cause legal uncertainty.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Latest News

  1. EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers
  2. Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal
  3. New book: Why war is coming
  4. EU parliament will not budge on office expenses
  5. Why Orban's project to reshape EU politics will be unsuccessful
  6. 10 years after Lehman Brothers what has changed for EU consumers?
  7. Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president
  8. Is Russia blackmailing the Council of Europe?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  4. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  5. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  8. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  10. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us