On 28 February 2018 the European Parliament adopted new regulation no. 2018/302 prohibiting, for reasons relating to the nationality, place of residence or place of establishment of a customer:
• the blocking or limiting of a customer's access to online interfaces,
• and, where applicable, the automatic redirection of a customer to an interface other than the one he or she wishes to access.
The object of Regulation no. 2018/302, which comes into force on 3 December 2018, is to ensure that all consumers in the European Union enjoy the same access to goods and services as local consumers, by prohibiting geoblocking and automatic redirection, thereby putting an end to discrimination between buyers.
Many businesses operating in the e-commerce sector use geoblocking, which consists in blocking access to an online sales website for foreign customers, in particular to avoid having to manage a contractual relationship with a customer based in another country, with all its practical implications (language, delivery methods, currency of payment, etc.) and/or to avoid making sales in a territory reserved for other resellers.
Geoblocking will however be possible if it is necessary to satisfy a legal requirement (for example, a regulated activity) and provided that the business operator clearly explains this to the customer.
Checks on compliance with prohibitions will be provided by one or more agencies(s) appointed by each Member State, which will take appropriate "effective, proportionate and dissuasive" measures.
It would therefore be appropriate for businesses concerned by these measures relating to online sales to ensure that their websites comply with the provisions of the Regulation by the end of 2018 and, if appropriate, to update their General Conditions of Sale in anticipation of the increase in International sales that could result from the adoption of this new Regulation.
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