Complaints about online discrimination due to geo-blocking

Although geo-blocking has been banned in the EU since 3 December of last year, the European Consumer Centre (ECC) in Utrecht is still receiving complaints from consumers about this form of online discrimination. The rules are still unclear for both entrepreneurs and consumers. 

Complaints about online discrimination due to geo-blocking, ECC Netherlands

Victims complaining to the ECC are both Dutch consumers who are banned by foreign websites and foreign consumers who are refused by Dutch entrepreneurs. In a number of complaints, the ECC lawyers intervening resulted in companies adapting their websites and opening their services up to all EU residents. 

Ban on online discrimination

Since the entry into force of the Geo-blocking Regulation, web shops and websites in the EU are no longer allowed to block consumers from abroad based of their nationality, residence or place of business, if they wish to benefit from an offer or other price advantage. This should allow them to shop freely online, compare prices and choose the best offer anywhere in Europe. 

The Centre found that one year after the entry into force of the Regulation, there is still a lack of clarity among both consumers and businesses in regard to its scope of application. In practice, entrepreneurs still automatically refer consumers to local websites with higher prices and refuse to sell products to foreign consumers. In addition, national payment systems often make it impossible to make payments from abroad, which means consumers still do not always have access to the best deals. 

Online discrimination contact point

Consumers who deal with borders online can file a complaint about the matter with the contact point for complaints about online discrimination. This contact point is a part of the ECC in Utrecht. Since the new Regulation, many consumers have already found their way to this contact point and positive results have been achieved for consumers in various mediation cases. 

A well-known Dutch online auction platform, for example, set up its services for all EU residents after Bulgarian consumers complained to the ECC that they were denied access to this platform. After intervention of the ECC, the platform decided to lift the restrictions for Bulgarians, allowing them to also buy and sell products there.

Due to the intervention of the ECC, a Dutch motor scooter rental service has introduced other payment methods also accessible to foreign consumers, and from now on accepts driving licenses from all European member states for verification purposes when booking a motor scooter online.