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EU to end consumer ‘geoblocking’ by end of 2018

COMPANIES SELLING consumer goods within the EU will have to stop geoblocking, or re-routing, customers to their local stores by the end of next year. 

It’s common practice for companies like Amazon and other internet retailers to reroute customers to the local version of their sites automatically based on IP address information, but that leaves visitors with fewer choices and variable pricing between countries, rather than being allowed to purchase from whichever version of the store they want to use. 

To help combat this in future, the European Parliament, the 28 (current) member states of the EU, and the EU Commission have agreed to allow consumers in the EU to purchase products from any EU country by default. 

What the new rules don’t cover, however, is shipping of those products – if the online retailer doesn’t offer international shipping, the onus is on the buyer to arrange collection of the item within the shipping terms that are offered. 

“We are upgrading the EU Single Market to the digital world by giving consumers the same possibility to access the widest range of offers regardless of whether they physically enter a shop in another country or whether they shop online. Next stop: bringing down prices of cross-border parcel delivery, which still discourage people from buying and selling products across the EU,” Elżbieta Bieńkowska, in charge of Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs at the EC, said in the announcement.

The change will apply to any online retailer offering products or services for sale within the EU. Of course, whether or not UK businesses will benefit from the change after Brexit remains to be seen – it all depends on whether we retain access to the EU single market or not. 

An exception has been extended to music streaming services though, after the industry successfully argued that it could lead to price increases in countries where it’s currently cheaper to access its services. 

What it doesn’t mean, however, is that retailers have an obligation to harmonise prices across different countries, or to sell in a specific country if it doesn’t already. µ 

Source : Inquirer

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