The European Parliament and the Council accepted a regulation this February on the prohibition of discrimination on webshops based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. The regulation prohibits the geological discrimination of customers, so called ‘geo-blocking’.
Before the acceptance of the regulation, the European Commission conducted a consultation in 2015 and a sectoral inquiry on e-commerce in 2017. These revealed that a huge number of customers were discriminated by their location or nationality, and webshops used data on their location to apply restrictive measures.
According to the passed regulation, webshops shall provide the possibility of shopping for those customers to whose member state the webshop otherwise does not undertake shipping. Even in this case, webshops will not be forced to ship the product but to enable the customers to take it over or to have it delivered on their own expense. Discrimination between electronically and non-electronically provided services will also be prohibited.
Webshops must ensure access to their online interface regardless of the customer’s residence, place of establishment and nationality. Redirection of the customer to another vendor interface which adopts the customer’s residence, place of establishment and nationality will also be forbidden without the explicit consent of the customer.
The regulation brings changes in the means of payment as well. From 3 December 2018, webshops must ensure without discrimination that the means of payment provided by them are accessible to all customers regardless of their nationality, place of residence or place of establishment, the location of the payment account, the place of establishment of the payment service provider or the place of issue of the payment instrument.
The enforcement of the law shall be ensured by each Member State. The regulation contains only provisions on designating the Member State’s enforcement authority, obligation to impose sanctions, and to impose authority in connection with disputes between customers and traders. The exact rules and provision must be established by each Member State until the regulation enters into force on 3 December 2018.