Europe’s online shops to open their borders

Online shoppers should be able to shop around for the best deals across the EU

21 February 2018
By

The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to end cross-border blocking as used by many retailers.

However, hopes of being able to open up TV access – sweeping away content restrictions on BBC iPlayer, Sky, Netflix, Spotify or streamed TV sports for a big event – fell flat due to copyright problems but there is a review in two years.

Online shopping in Europe was worth €230 billion in 2017 and €82 billion in France and the Euro­pean Commission said while one third of online shoppers bought from a retailer in another EU country the remaining two-thirds had problems.

‘Geoblocking’ prevented them buying as the site would say “You are being re-directed to the French page of this website”, saying delivery was not possible or refusing a credit card from their country. Removing the problem could open up another €400 million of sales.

Shopping sites offer different products and services for different countries and prices vary, too, often by up to double those elsewhere.

French MEP Virginie Rozière highlighted the case of Disneyland Paris hotel rooms where a French family could get a two night stay for €856 but Spaniards paid €1,114 and Italians €1,339.

The company has since improved its pricing.

When the rules come into force this autumn  people in France who find good deals on Christmas presents should be able to buy them at the best price as well as organising car rental, hotel rooms and concert tickets.

Prices are not harmonised but e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay will treat all states’ residents like ‘local’ shoppers and offer products at the same price, with only delivery costs varying.

Voted as part of the EU Digital Single Market, the regulation ends geoblocking for goods such as furniture and electronics, online services such as cloud services or web hosting and entertainment such as theme park or concert tickets.

It also says that if delivery is offered to one European state then it must be offered to all and adds that customers would have options to collect an item or organise delivery themselves.

Lobbying from the TV, film and music industry ended hopes of halting copyright restrictions but MEPs see e-books, TV and streamed material as an open market failing to be rectified.

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