EU Parliament and Council finally approved the new Regulation 302/2018 concerning Geoblocking, which provides measures that avoid unjustified geographical blocks and other forms of discrimination based on customers’ nationality, residence, or domicile in the internal market of the EU.
The Regulation imposes an important revision of online selling policies either from the producers or from the distributor point of view. The whole revision must be completed within December 3, 2018 – when the Regulation will enter into force.
Internet, as everybody knows, represents a powerful resource for trading consumer goods as, making possible to break the physical distances, it allows consumer to buy a wide range of products within or without the national borders. E-commerce, therefore, has become a precious instrument in support of the European Digital Single Market, guaranteeing the free circulation of goods and services.
Nevertheless, practices like geoblocking may contribute thwarting the e-commerce potentialities. For example, a supplier of online goods and/or services who applies that kind of practices avoids or obstacles a costumer from a given part of the world in the purchase of its own good and services creating, actually, artificial barriers and someway “stopping” the European Digital Single Market.
Antitrust regulations, however, has always condemned the implementation of such practices. In particular, the agreements on the basis of which producers prevent theirs distributors to sell, directly or indirectly, their good or services outside of given areas, are considered – without any doubts – restrictions on competitions (in compliance with Art. 101 TFEU).
The new Regulation, therefore, has a stricter approach on the issue and it prohibits geoblocking practices, whatever is their juridical form (agreement, unilateral decisions of procurers/distributors). Moreover, it will enter into force on 3 December 2018 and it will be addressed to all the companies that practice online selling within the European Union, including those who, having their headquarters outside Europe, sell their products in European Countries.
To conclude, it must be mentioned that the new norms applies to cross-border sales and, consequently, those sales within territorial areas of the same Member State are not prohibited by the Regulation. Moreover, its scope of application will be limited to selective and exclusive distribution systems. Finally, the Regulation expressly provides that the rules indicated therein apply for one or more national bodies and preparing an adequate system of sanctions.