The European Commission has been working to break down online barriers that prevent people from enjoying full access to all goods and services being offered by businesses in the EU. Ending unjustified cross-border barriers, facilitating cheaper cross-border parcel delivieries, protection of online customer rights and promoting cross border access to online content are some of the ways to achieving the Digital Single Market Strategy.

eCommerce is one of the cornerstones of the Digital Single Market strategy and the EU has taken several steps to make it easier and safer for European consumers to shop online throughout the EU. To realise the full potential of eCommerce, the EU has worked on:

  • the revised Payment Services Directive and new rules on cross-border parcel delivery services  that are already in force 
  • new rules to stop unjustified geoblocking  which will be effective from 3 December 2018.
  • revised consumer protection rules that will enter into force in 2020
  • new VAT rules for online sales of goods and services that will enter into force in 2021 

New rules to end unjustified geoblocking in the EU

Geoblocking prevents us from using the internet in one EU Member State and buying from a website based in another. This creates a big problem for consumers: for instance in 2015, up to 63% of websites screened and prevented shoppers in one way or another from buying in a different country.

What is the Commission doing about it?

  • New rules entered into force on 3 December 2018, across the European Union which will end online discrimination on the basis of nationality or place of residence.
  • The rules ensure that we no longer face unjustified barriers such as being re-routed back to a country-specific website, or having to pay with a debit or credit card only from a certain country.
  • Online sellers must treat all EU consumers equally regardless of where they choose to shop from.

Factsheets, Guide and Q&A

What is not covered by the new geoblocking rules?

The new geoblocking rules do not concern transport services, retail financial services and Audiovisual services as the sector-specific legislation addresses these services.

  • EU rules on transport already prohibit discrimination based on nationality or place of residence for transport by air, bus or boat.
  • When taking out consumer credit, opening a mortgage or a bank account, there are specific EU rules in place to protect you

Making cross-border parcel delivieries cheaper

Cross-border parcel delivery prices are on average 3 to 5 times higher than domestic delivery prices for all products. 62% of companies that wish to sell online identify high delivery costs as a problem. This is an important break in the development of cross border e-commerce.

New rules on online cross-border parcel delivery services have been in place since May 2018, aimed at guaranteeing price transparency and competition. This will make it easier to find the cheapest way of sending a parcel from one Member State to another.

What do the new rules change?

There is no cap on delivery prices, but businesses now have to disclose their prices clearly, so the consumer can easily compare. As of next year, consumers will also be able to consult parcel delivery prices on a dedicated webpage on the European Commission's website.

National authorities will collect information every year from parcel delivery companies. Where parcel delivery is subject to an universal service obligation, national regulatory authorities will also be required to assess where tariffs are unreasonably high.

Protecting your rights as an Online Consumer

As of January 2020, new rules will enter into force, making it easier for national authorities to protect consumers online. The rules will enable the removal of sites or social media accounts where scams have been identified. It will also be possible to request  information from internet service providers or banks, in order to trace the identity of rogue online traders.

The Commission has proposed new rules for digital contracts, which are currently being discussed by the Parliament and the Council. The proposed rules would create clearer rights for consumers when accessing digital content and digital services. For example, if the digital content they receive is not as agreed or as they reasonably expected, they would have specific contractual rights. These rights would also apply when the consumer has provided personal data to the trader without paying a price.

In April 2018, the Commission also proposed a New Deal for Consumers which will further strengthen Consumer rights online:

  • Online market places will have to inform consumers whether they are buying from a trader or a private individual, so they are aware of thier rights if something goes wrong
  • When consumers search online, they will be clearly informed when a search result is being paid for by a trader and online marketplaces will have to inform about the main parameters determining the ranking of the results.
  • When consumers pay for a digital service, they will benefit from certain information rights with 14 days to cancel the contract.

More information on consumer rights and details on rights as an EU citizen is available in all EU languages.

Facilitating Access to Audiovisual services 

Europeans are able to use their online subscriptions to films, sports events, e-books, video games or music when travelling in the EU since April 2018.

The Commission is also working to create a modern framework for copyright in the EU which will allow more cross-border access to content online, by making licencing for online transmissions simpler.

New EU rules for audiovisual media have been agreed on, adapt existing rules to the digital age and promoting European works and preserving cultural diversity. These rules are not in force yet.

More information

Other proposals are being currently discussed in the Parliament or negotiated between the institutions, such as contract rules for sale of goods and supply of digital content and  the New Deal for Consumers, presented in April 2018. The aim is to agree on these new rules before the end of the current European parliament legislature.

Useful Links

  • Read or download factsheet that gives an overview of what EU provides for its consumers. (now available in most EU languages)
  • For detailed information on your rights as consumers, you can access the Your Europe website, in all official EU languages .
  • If you want to know more about opoortunities that EU provides for its citizens, refer to  the EU And Me