Ecommerce Europe presents its perspective on geo-blocking at CeBIT 2016


Ecommerce Europe’s Secretary General Marlene ten Ham participated in a panel debate at CeBITon 14 March. The five-day annual event, held in Hannover (Germany), is the world’s leading conference on digitalization, attracting more than 200,000 policy makers, industry leaders and stakeholders. The conference was co-organized by the European Commission (DG CONNECT) and Deutsche Messe and focused on progress towards the creation of a Digital Single Market.

Recognizing online merchants’ fundamental rights

On the conference’s opening day, Marlene ten Ham took part in an expert debate on digital transformation and the need to create a modern framework for e-commerce. In a panel discussion attended by the European Consumer Organization BEUC, the European Commission and the TV provider RTL, Ms. ten Tam shared Ecommerce Europe’s perspective on geo-blocking in the digital economy. 
Ms. ten Ham stressed the importance of recognizing online merchants’ fundamental rights to economic and contractual freedom. In fact, in the view of Ecommerce Europe, this freedom also includes merchants’ freedom to decide not to sell or deliver to a consumer in another Member State or apply a different price for the same product sold online, if there are objective reasons based on reasonable grounds.

About imposing an obligation to sell to everyone in the EU

Another topic of discussion was the potential policy option – being considered by the European Commission – to oblige online merchants to sell to everywhere in the EU, but with the right for the trader not to deliver everywhere. Ms. ten Ham stressed that policy makers should pay careful attention to the effects that this obligation would have on the e-commerce sector. In practice, it could only work if the online trader is obliged to sell to every consumer in the EU, with the caveat that the consumer accepts having the product delivered within the geographical area covered by the merchant. In any case, Ecommerce Europe considers that forcing online merchants to deliver everywhere in the EU would be a nonsensical and unreasonable option.

Next steps

The Commission is expected to publish its proposal to tackle unjustified geo-blocking in May 2016. With this in mind, Ecommerce Europe is now meeting with many representatives from the EU Institutions to explain to them its perspective and to ensure that the voice of online merchants is heard. For more details about Ecommerce Europe’s vision on geo-blocking, please download the position paper here.