Citizens frequently turn to the European Parliament to ask what the European Union is doing to enable citizens to access online content when travelling within the EU?
Between 2015 and 2019, the number of internet users trying to get cross-border access to content almost doubled, according to a Eurobarometer survey. In many cases, however, consumers were not able to access (or only partially) the service they had subscribed to, or they were not able to use the online content they had previously purchased or rented in their home country. New legislation on access to online content when abroad entered into force in April 2018, followed by legislation on unjustified geo-blocking in December 2018.
2017 Regulation on accessing online content abroad
Against the background of the Digital Single Market Strategy published in 2016 by the European Commission, the European Union adopted legislation to end restrictions on accessing online content abroad.
The 2017 legislation on portability of online content enables users to access, the same way as they do at home, their online film subscriptions and other digital products when temporarily present in another EU country. This is subject to prior verification of the country of residence of the subscriber.
To mark one year since the entry into force of the EU legislation on portability, the European Commission issued a press statement.
2018 Regulation on geo-blocking
Geo-blocking prevents consumers from purchasing consumer goods and accessing digital content online from other EU countries. According to the European Commission, 38 % of retailers selling consumer goods and 68 % of digital content providers that replied to an inquiry into the e-commerce sector answered that they geo-block consumers located in other EU countries.
The 2018 legislation on addressing unjustified geo-blocking ensures that buyers of goods or services from another EU country are treated like local customers. More details is available on the Legislative Train website. A review of the regulation by the European Commission, in particular the assessment of the scope, is overdue since spring 2020. In February 2021, the European Parliament, through its parliamentary Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), put a question to the European Commission whether it intended to address the implementation issues in an upgraded legislation.
The European Commission website on geo-blocking features more information on its action.
European Parliamentary questions
Members of the European Parliament regularly address questions to the European Commission on cross-border content portability, for example regarding access to online content services, the effects of geo-blocking, or exemptions.
- The Legal Framework for E-commerce in the Internal Market, European Parliament, Directorate-General for Internal Policies, Study, 2020
- How to Fully Reap the Benefits of the Internal Market for E-Commerce?, European Parliament, Directorate-General for Internal Policies, Study, 2020.
- E-commerce: Ban on unjustified geo-blocking and discrimination practices among customers, European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS), At a glance, 2018
Keep sending your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP)! We reply in the EU language that you use to write to us.