New Geo-blocking Regulation means more transparency when you shop online

December 14, 2018

A new EU regulation has come into effect, which bans business practices called geo-blocking. Geo-blocking is when a business makes it difficult or doesn’t allow customers from another country to buy goods and services from their website. The new regulation means it is easier for consumers to compare prices across the EU.

How does the regulation benefit you?

  • If you are shopping online, businesses can no longer stop or restrict you from accessing or buying from their website or app based on your location. They have to give you the same opportunity to buy their products but they do not have to deliver to your location if they don’t already deliver there.
  • A business can’t re-route you to another version of their website without your permission and they must ask you for your permission each time they want to reroute you.
  • A business is free to accept whatever payment methods they wish but they should not change that based on where you are located. For example, if a business in Spain accepts Visa debit card payments in Spain, then they must accept a Visa debit card payment from someone in Ireland.

Are there exceptions?

Yes in some specific circumstances there are exceptions, for example, the rules don’t apply to financial services, some media/content services (e.g. Netflix or video games), gambling services and most transport services.

Also, if a business only sells their goods or services entirely in the country that they are located they are not subject to the regulation.

More details are available in our guidelines here.

Examples of how it works

  • An Irish customer wants to buy a camera and finds the cheapest price on a German website. The website does not deliver to Ireland and it only offers delivery within Germany or collection at the store. Under the new regulation, the Irish customer can buy the camera from the website but must arrange to have it collected or delivered to an address in Germany, the same as any customer in Germany.
  • An Irish customer wants to access the Italian version of an online clothes website. Even though they type in the URL of the Italian site, they get redirected to the Irish site. Under the new regulation a business can no longer do that unless the customer gives their permission. Even if the customer gives permission to be redirected to the Irish site, they must still be able to access the original site – in this case the Italian version. Next time they visit the site, the business must ask permission again before redirecting, they can’t ‘retain’ permission.
  • A Spanish business accepts a certain credit or debit card for payments on its website, but tells a customer in Ireland that they can’t buy an item because their card was issued in Ireland. The Geo-blocking Regulation no longer allows this. However, a business can stipulate what currency they accept.

Who do I contact if I have a problem with an EU business?

If you are a consumer based in Ireland and you think your rights are being restricted, the European Consumer Centre Ireland (ECC) can give you more information about your rights, help you settle a dispute with a business in another Member State or explain the next steps for you to take.

If you are a consumer based in another country and you would like to report a business based in Ireland who you believe is not complying with the regulation, you can report them to the CCPC through our contact us form or by calling our helpline on +3531 4025555.

Return to News

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?