The free movement of products and services is one of the major achievements of the European Union. However, this freedom will not be fulfilled if only borders, fees and taxes are abolished. It is also necessary for traders not to hinder their clients from other countries to place orders, as well as to get stimulated to accept them by implementing relevant legislation. This way the Single market will reachc its full potential and the consumers may enjoy a wider range of possibilities.
When retailers discriminate their clients on geographical basis, it's named geoblocking. In most of the cases the website re-directs its visitors to a convenient page, where the prices or the offered products and services differ from the other versions. You may also get geoblocked when you are denied to pay with a bank card, because it has been issued in your country and not in the trader's country.
In order to avoid these unfair limmitations, the European Union adopted Regulation 2018/312, which has been in force since December 2018. Its rights and obligations opene a new page in the digital market on the continent.
Not every geoblocking is unfair!
Sometimes limitation on a geographical basis has its objective reasons and you will not be able to purchase the items you want from the website in question. This reversed discrimination has its own economical and legal foundations. Very often consumers expect a price for a product or a promotion to it to be valid for their country as well, and not just for the indicated state in the advertisement. The anti-discrimination rules do not limit the traders to offer different bonuses, gifts, discounts or reductions to only few countries or even to their regions. The aim of this prohibition is to entitle you with the same amount of rights from home as if you place an order as a local buyer, while you are also bound with the corresponding obligations and/or limitations.
Unapproved re-direction prohibition
The traders from the European Union cannot re-direct you anymore to a specific version of their websites, unless you have been priorly asked for your permission. For example, if you want to buy a perfume or a snowboard from a French company, the trader's website must not re-direct you to a Bulgarian or International interface, but promptly ask you and show all available options. This way you may compare prices and conditions between each page.
Unaccepted payment method prohibition
Sometimes companies reject bank cards, because they have not been issued in the country of their registration due to security risks. Despite the low amount of these denials, the payment system of the European Union is considered to be the most protected on the planet and the cases when your money will not be accepted are few. Generally speaking, if it's written that a particular type of cards are accepted, then there is no difference which is the member state of the card issuer and the retailer will have no ground to reject the purchase.
Access to goods and services
This rule is more popular with the phrase "Buy as a local", i.e. the aim of the Regulation is to allow you to order as if you are in or from the trader's country as much as possible.
Online products purchases are inevitably followed by their deliveries. The new regulations forbid traders to deny placed orders, which deliveries is to the same destination of their normal commercial activity. For example, if an Italian coffee machine maker delivers only to Italy, they will have to accept your order as long as the delivery address is in Italy. You will have to take the device from that address or organize by yourself the cross-border delivery. Of course, don't forget before that to ask the trader to deliver to your home adress!
Buying services do not have these limitations and there is no difference whether the service "travels" electronically or is provided on the spot. Whether you want to subscribe for Polish language course, buy a Dutch mobile game, massage voucher for a prestigious studio in Vienna or a ticket for an amusement park in Finland - none of these traders can deny you the purchase. Services can only be denied, if there are copyrights protections, such as online books from Maltese authors or video content from Czech television channels.
Where can I submit a complaint, if the trader denies me access to their website?
The European Consumer Centre Bulgaria can provide you with information and assist you when there is unfair geoblocking from the side of a company in another EU member state, Iceland or Norway.
Each country has also defined a competent authority, which has the power to sanction breaches of the Geoblocking Regulation. For Bulgaria it is the Bulgarian Consumer Protection Commission.