Geoblocking

Are you unable to make use of price advantages in foreign webshops due to your location? If so, you are a victim of discrimination, which is prohibited as of 3 December 2018 throughout the EU as well as in Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

Some retailers run webshops in several countries. You may come across a good deal in a German webshop (webshop.de), but when you attempt to place an order you are redirected to the Dutch webshop (webshop.nl) via a geographic algorithm. This means you cannot take advantage of the deal in accordance with the terms of sale applicable to the German webshop. This form of discrimination is known as geo-blocking.

The geo-blocking ban ensures that all consumers within the EU are treated equally and given the opportunity to shop in webshops based in other countries with the same pricing and terms of sale the apply in those countries - the so-called "shop-like-a-local" principle.

Geoblocking, ECC-Netherlands

Good to know

What is geo-bocking?

Geo-blocking is the discrimination (unequal treatment) of consumers on the basis of nationality, place of residence, or location. Signs of geo-blocking are:

  • You want to use a foreign webshop or app and you are denied access due to your location;
  • You are redirected to another version of the website or app without your permission;
  • You are prevented from purchasing products or services;
  • You are subject to different pricing or terms of sale than consumers from another country;
  • A payment method originating in another country is refused.

#geoblocking

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What do the geo-blocking rules that took effect on 3 December 2018 mean for me?

The new geo-blocking rules that took effect on 3 December 2018 ensure that you can no longer be discriminated against based on your nationality, place of residence, or place of establishment. As of this date, you can easily compare prices and buy across borders under the same terms of sale that apply to consumers in the country you are buying from.

#geoblocking-rules

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Can a foreign webshop refuse me as a consumer?

A webshop may not refuse sale to consumers based on nationality, place of residence, or location. As of 3 December 2018, you have the right to access:

  • foreign webshops;
  • pricing used in that country;
  • terms of delivery applicable in that country;
  • terms of payment applicable in that country.

#geoblocking-online-discrimination

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Can a foreign webshop automatically redirect me to the webshop of the country I am currently located in?

Webshops may not automatically redirect you to another version of the webshop. If a consumer from the Netherlands wishes to make a purchase from a Belgian webshop (webshop.be), the webshop may not redirect you without your consent to the Dutch webshop (webshop.nl). The webshop must request your explicit permission, for example via a pop-up webpage asking you if you would like to visit the Dutch webshop. 

If you give permission to be redirected to the Dutch webshop, you must also have the option to return to webshop.be. The webshop can do this by offering, for example, a 'select country' option, denoted with flags.

#geoblocking-redirect-webshop

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The foreign webshop uses prices that deviate from the Dutch webshop. Is that allowed?

Webshops may use different pricing and terms of sale. It is therefore possible that a product for sale on 'webshop.de' is cheaper than it is in the Dutch webshop ('webshop.nl').

#geoblocking-different-pricing-and-terms-of-sale

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Which payment methods are required in a webshop?

Entrepreneurs are free to decide which payment options are offered in their webshops. As a foreign consumer, you must be offered the same payment options as local consumers, and payment may not be refused based on a consumer's location.  

#geoblocking-required-payment-methods-webshop

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Can a webshop refuse payment based on my location?

The webshop may not refuse your payment based on your location, and is obligated to make the full order process available to every consumer, regardless of their location.

#geoblocking-refuse-payment-based-on-location

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A webshop has an order limit for foreign consumers. Is this allowed?

The webshop must treat all consumers equally. If local consumers are not subject to order limits, these may not apply to foreign consumers either. This is seen as unequal treatment, which is prohibited as of 3 December 2018.

#geoblocking-order-limit-foreign-consumers

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Am I entitled to delivery from a foreign webshop?

Some webshops designate a delivery area. Consumers living outside this area are not entitled to delivery of goods ordered from the webshop. The retailer must offer consumers the option of having their order delivered to an alternative location within the designated delivery area. The retailer is also obligated to clearly state the terms of delivery on their website and during the order process, so that consumers are aware of their position.

#geoblocking-delivery-from-foreign-webshop

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Does the geo-blocking ban also apply to business consumers?

The geo-blocking rules that went into effect on 3 December apply to both private and business consumers.

#geoblocking-

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Does the geo-blocking ban also apply to (digital) services?

The geo-blocking rules that took effect on 3 December 2018 apply to both products and (digital) services. This means that cheaper, foreign hosting and streaming services may be used from this date.

#geoblocking-ban-digital-services

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Does the geo-blocking ban apply to all services?

The geo-blocking ban does not apply to all services. The exceptions are:

  • Non-economic services of general interest;
  • Financial services;
  • Electronic services;
  • Transport services;
  • Temporary employment services;
  • Healthcare services;
  • Audiovisual services;
  • Gambling activities;
  • Public authority services;
  • Private security services;
  • Notary and bailiff services.

Domestic purchases, i.e. when a Dutch consumer purchases a product or service from a Dutch webshop, are also exempt. The ban applies only to purchases from foreign (web)shops.

#geoblocking-ban-exceptions

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Does the geo-blocking ban apply to webshops based outside the EU?

The geo-blocking regulation applies to sales activities within the 28 EU member states, as well as Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. Webshops that are not based in one of the aforementioned countries are not obligated to comply with the rules of the geo-blocking regulation.

#geoblocking-ban-webshops-outside-the-EU

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I’ve been discriminated against by an (online) entrepreneur. Where can I file a complaint?

If you believe you are a victim of geo-blocking and have been discriminated against based on your nationality, place of residence, or place of establishment, you can file a complaint with the European Consumer Center.

#geoblocking-online-discrimination-file-complaint

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