back to article European Council agrees to remove geoblocking

The Council of Ministers has agreed on draft regulation to ban unjustified geoblocking in an attempt to remove barriers to ecommerce across the European Union. Geoblocking is the practice of preventing consumers in one country from accessing products and services via a website based in another country. The draft regulation is …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some online shops refuse to sell physical goods to certain EU countries because the postal system loses packages too often. Will that discrimination still be allowed?

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      and what about VAT?

      The biggest hassle with selling across borders is the change in VAT rukes - you have to pay VAT based on the buyer's local rate rather than the seller's. This put a stop to Amazon Luxembourg selling loads of cheap DVDs, but is a nightmare for a small business. <ukip advert>Much simpler to 'just say no' to foreigners </ukip advert>

      1. Nick Kew

        Re: and what about VAT?

        It's a while since I've charged VAT to someone in another EU country, but ISTR charging at my own country's rate. Are you saying that's changed?

        My recollection is also that reclaiming VAT on cross-border transactions was something of a nightmare. Anyone know if it still is?

        1. VinceH

          Re: and what about VAT?

          "It's a while since I've charged VAT to someone in another EU country, but ISTR charging at my own country's rate. Are you saying that's changed?"

          Only for digital goods and services where delivery is automagic - the place of supply rules introduced at the start of last year mean the applicable VAT rate is that of the country into which the goods/service are being supplied.

          For physical goods and anything that requires manual intervention, it's still the seller's location that matters (AFAIK, anyway - when the the above was first talked about for digital goods, the suggestion was that it would eventually follow for physical goods as well.)

          "My recollection is also that reclaiming VAT on cross-border transactions was something of a nightmare. Anyone know if it still is?"

          Yes, it is - better to arrange with the seller to use reverse charging.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: and what about VAT?

            For physical goods and anything that requires manual intervention, it's still the seller's location that matters

            I think it depends on whether the seller has a presence in the country of the buyer.

            Example I've personally seen are:

            - Buy a physical book from Amazon UK (zero-rated) and ship it to France (5.5% rate) and Amazon UK will relieve you of the 5.5% French VAT, because there is also an Amazon FR.

            - Buy electronics from Maplin and have them shipped to France, and Maplin will charge you UK VAT because they have no French subsidiary.

            In the past (maybe 10-15 years ago) Maplin would have been able to ship abroad, EU or not, VAT-free, but not any longer.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: and what about VAT?

          "My recollection is also that reclaiming VAT on cross-border transactions was something of a nightmare. Anyone know if it still is?"

          not sure what the rules are, but I recently bought some components from a Swiss company via it's German subsidiary (the German operation takes payments for EU transactions); because the actual seller was Swiss, outside the EU, they didn't charge VAT. When I asked so why did they need my VAT number then, it was simply used to check we're a company ...

        3. Sirius Lee

          Re: and what about VAT?

          @Nick Kew If you are selling digital goods on-line then VAT must be charged at the rate prevailing in the buyers country of 'permanent residence' (which they tell you and you do not have to verify). These rules were defined in the EU VAT 2005 directive and cam into force across the EU in Jan 2015.

          If you are selling physical goods (even a digital good on a DVD you ship by mail) these changed rules do not apply.

    2. graeme leggett

      The article has "Traders will also not be obliged to deliver goods to customers outside the country in which they offer delivery."

      Reads as - if they don't offer to deliver to that country, then they are OK.

      They seem to want to crack down on quoting one price to deliver to a country and then seller getting arsey because you're ordering from a third country with a debit card from a local bank.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        They seem to want to crack down on quoting one price to deliver to a country and then seller getting arsey because you're ordering from a third country with a debit card from a local bank.

        Cracking down on the seller not allowing something that's practically non-existent then, unless it's fraud. I'm sure sellers will be pleased to hear that.

    3. Halfmad

      Honestly businesses should be free to say "nope not sending stuff there" as a business decision if it's backed up by historical losses etc.

      It's unreasonable to force companies to sell at a loss or where there's a high risk IMHO.

      1. Triggerfish

        Traders will also not be obliged to deliver goods to customers outside the country in which they offer delivery.

        I guess if you do not offer to deliver to that county because of risk, you are covered.

  2. SkippyBing

    What about where it would be illegal to sell that good/service in the other country? I assume there must be examples of this but it's our office Christmas party this afternoon so I don't have time to do the research myself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "What about where it would be illegal to sell that good/service in the other country?"

      An article in the Grauniad yesterday was about Belgium and The Netherlands doing a land swap to sort out some river border anomalies.

      Apparently there are also isolated bits of each country nested in isolated bits of the other country - like Russian Dolls.

      Here's one comment:

      "Baarle-Hertog is pretty odd indeed. The borders are marked out on the streets, running though houses and shops in places.

      It also encourages a weird cross border trade in fireworks; one is more liberal than the other, there are at least four huge shops dedicated to fireworks"

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

        Bordering on the ridiculous

        Baarle-Hertog is pretty odd indeed

        Just had a look at it on Google Maps - "pretty odd" is something of an understatement

        1. VinceH

          Re: Bordering on the ridiculous

          "Baarle-Hertog is pretty odd indeed"

          Oh, wow - in of places there is a bit of the Netherlands, inside a bit of Belgium which is inside the Netherlands. Russian dolls indeed.

        2. Bob Wheeler
          WTF?

          Re: Bordering on the ridiculous

          I've just look at the map, and can see bits of Netherlands, enclosed inside bits of Belgium that are enclosed inside of the Netherlands.

          WTF did this come about?????????????

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        It also encourages a weird cross border trade in fireworks; one is more liberal than the other, there are at least four huge shops dedicated to fireworks"

        Like pubs that found themselves straddling the Irish border, and could only serve alcohol from one end of the bar on Sundays.

      3. The_Idiot

        Not just...

        ... Belgium and the Netherlands.

        Here's 'the only library in the world that operates in two countries at once':

        http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-us-canada-border-runs-through-this-tiny-library

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "What about where it would be illegal to sell that good/service in the other country?"

      IIRC HMRC place the legal blame on the buyer for importing illegal goods. Just because something can be bought through amazon.co.uk listings doesn't mean it is legal to import it into the UK.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now I understand why Murdoch rags were so vehement on BrExit

    Hehe... All that lovely revenue from price gouging Sky subscriptions...

    Sufficient reason to f*** up the rest of the country's economy ya know...

    1. billat29

      Re: Now I understand why Murdoch rags were so vehement on BrExit

      Finally someone gets it!

      And, of course, they are also part of the pack that want Openreach split from BT so that they can pass expected price savings on to their customers:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38166781

      or not......

    2. Wyrdness

      Re: Now I understand why Murdoch rags were so vehement on BrExit

      But, oddly enough, the Sky News website seemed to be very much pro-Remain. Go figure.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Now I understand why Murdoch rags were so vehement on BrExit

        But, oddly enough, the Sky News website seemed to be very much pro-Remain. Go figure.

        I suspect that they needed to present themselves as "unbiased". So they split so that the LEAST influential and LEAST likely to influence the result of the referendum part drew the short Remain straw. The real kingmakers of past (and present) elections threw their weight where that was needed for their parent corporate owner.

        Yeah. "Free Press". Quotes intended and needed.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Now I understand why Murdoch rags were so vehement on BrExit

      "Hehe... All that lovely revenue from price gouging Sky subscriptions..."

      Except that by the sounds of it, the EU is moving towards being a single market on digital goods too. If geoblocking is not allowed, then the content providers making geoblocking part of the licensing contract will have to remove those contract restrictions for their content or simply not sell into the entire EU market.

      So Sky, instead of having one big EU market will have the Eu + UK. Maybe they can gouge one or the other, or even both, but they can't gouge 27 26 EU members separately.

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    VPNs?

    It's a pity that this is a proposed EU regulation, as it would be really handy in the future. We'll all be using overseas exit points for our VPNs to prevent the Welsh Ambulance Trust being able to see our browsing history and it's a pain to get adverts for Icelandic products, but more of a pain when you get totally blocked from a site 'cos they think you're a Viking.

  5. S4qFBxkFFg

    If the EU wish for the UK (or England+Wales - who knows?) to be the last country they lose, they must sort this (and plenty of other things) out so that people can tangibly benefit from their country remaining.

    Make single market mean single market, with no exceptions. (Words like "reasonable" and "practicable" provide far too much wiggle-room when the lawyers get involved.)

    If you want to buy your electricity from a French company, cable TV from Croatia, internet from Finland, Insurance from Austria, mobile data from Estonia, and bank with Germany, then why not?

    Any media that are available in the EU, should be available in all the EU, on common terms.

    Throw the book, and its translations into all EU languages, at any company that resists.

    1. stanimir

      If you want to buy your electricity from a French company, cable TV from Croatia, internet from Finland, Insurance from Austria, mobile data from Estonia, and bank with Germany, then why not?

      pretty much what I tend to do, if I find suitable online shop that delivers at reasonable prices.

      Amazon is such an exception, they practically ship abroad way below market value. The shipment companies would lose huge chunks if they deliver Amazon good only.

      The article is not about online shopping only, though. Electronic goods indeed should have same prices across the EU.

      I recall the last couple Bowie records (The Next Day & Blackstar) were impossible in the my country of residence. I spent like 4 hours to buy them legally (w/o having the CDs delivered to my door).... no dice (VPN doesn't help as the credit card issue was also checked). So if the regarded geoblocking disappears it'd be a good day for the EU.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "so that people can tangibly benefit from their country remaining."

      Yes, I was think this the other day. Whatever peoples feeling on the merits or otherwise of Brexit, the referendum result has kicked the arse of the EU into gear and they finally seem to be taking steps to sort out at least some of the issue that have been dragging on for years.

      It's possible the Brexit could be what saves the EU from implosion.

  6. smartypants

    This is a great idea.

    Some others on the same theme...

    They could make it possible for any EU citizen to live and work anywhere else without restriction and protected from discrimination.

    Or create a harmonised set of rules by which every business has to adhere to, to level the playing field across the whole EU, making it easier to pitch for business in other countries...

    Imagine that!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is a great idea.

      They could mandate exactly the same tax rates everywhere, and the same minimum wage. Same pension age everywhere for everyone? What about the same terms and conditions for unemployment benefit? What would everyone be happy with, one year @ 50% ? Two years at 70%? I'm sure they'd have no problem at all getting everyone to agree to something there. Then of course they'd have to mandate the same pensions schemes and payments. Would it be capitalization or repartition?

      The EU only "works" because everthing is so ambiguous that the rules can always be interpreted flexibly. No doubt this ruling will be no different.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: This is a great idea.

        "They could mandate exactly the same tax rates everywhere, and the same minimum wage. Same pension age everywhere for everyone? What about the same terms and conditions for unemployment benefit? What would everyone be happy with, one year @ 50% ? Two years at 70%?"

        Well, so far, most of the harmonisation of EU rules and laws seems to be to take the country with the best/worst/biggest/smallest optin and bring everyone else into line with them in a way that the country being harmonised with doesn't have to "lose" anything. eg copyright extensions across the EU to bring the rest into line with the likes of Germany so that the Germans didn't "lose" their 60 year copyright period and everyone else had to increase to match. Lots of stuff went back into copyright in many countries instead of averaging it out.

        Oh, hang on, harmonising unemployment payments at the highest levels isn't going to happen. Unless taxes are also harmonised at the highest levels. Except we all know which way the harmonisation balance will tip when it comes to benefits to the people or benefits to the governments.

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: This is a great idea.

      I agree, but some will call it "The United States of Europe", and some Brits are still dreaming about the coming of the Greater Britain.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is a great idea.

        I agree, but some will call it "The United States of Europe"

        More like the European Soviet Union. It'll be just as successful, no doubt.

  7. td0s

    So this is totally pointless or I'm missing something. EU says 'you can't ban someone from your service based on their location, but you can make it cost more than all the money in the world to them'

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      @ td0s

      On the whole I think sellers want to sell, what do you think, and nobody is forcing anybody to sell.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    missing something

    if i'm in the EU, and I pay for a service that involves streaming content, where in these new rules does it say I'm allowed to get access to the content I paid for regardless of where I am in the EU, or that each item must be clearly labelled as to where it's available, before payment taken?

  9. Dave 15 Silver badge

    unjustified... what a get out

    Love the phrase.

    So will the blocking of porn sites by the UK ISPs be an unjustified geo block or a justified one?

    What about the continued blocking of many videos in Germany because of some rights issues (I mean, what is the point to having the right to a video if no one can buy it anyway... so why use that as a justification to stop them watching it... bizarre)

    Basically what I read is a law with a title that means the politicians can claim to have done something, but a law with so little meaning and so totally toothless they have done nothing. Its yes minister for real (again)

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