Consumer Ombudsman begins new task as monitor of geo-blocking regulation

According to the EU geo-blocking regulation, companies which offer goods and services in the EU area may not engage in unjustified discrimination of customers based on nationality or place of residence. The consumer Ombudsman has begun to monitor compliance with the geo-blocking regulation as of 1 April 2019.

According to the geo-blocking regulation, companies must treat customers within the EU area in the same way regardless of their nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. The principal idea is that customers in other member states must be able to acquire goods and services on the same conditions as the companies’ local customers.

Geo-blocking includes practices such as an online store preventing customers from other member states from accessing its website, requiring that foreign customers pay for their purchases using a debit or credit card from a particular country, or applying extra charges to foreign customers.

A company may nevertheless choose in which countries it sells products or services, provided that it does not discriminate against customers based on their nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. In addition, a company may itself decide in which language it offers its services. An online store does not therefore need to offer all languages which customers would potentially want to use. For example, a Finnish consumer can use a German online store without the store offering its services in Finnish.

The geo-blocking regulation does not apply to flight tickets or other travel tickets. The regulation also does not require that the price of the product would be the same for the citizens of all EU countries, as country-specific VAT levels will affect the prices.

The Consumer Ombudsman will monitor compliance with the geo-blocking regulation in Finland. Where assistance is needed in particular geo-blocking-related situations, this can be requested from the European Consumer Centre.

Advice from the European Consumer Centre