Exiting the European Union (Consumer Protection)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 2nd April 2019.

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Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 3:00 pm, 2nd April 2019

I beg to move,

That the draft Geo-Blocking Regulation (Revocation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which were laid before this House on 14 March, be approved.

The statutory instrument will revoke both EU regulation 2018/302 and the Geo-Blocking (Enforcement) Regulations 2018 in the event of the UK exiting the EU without a withdrawal agreement. This recognises that in the event of a no-deal exit from the EU, there will be no way to enforce effectively the geo-blocking regulation on behalf of UK consumers.

Geo-blocking is the term used to describe traders discriminating against customers on the basis of nationality or of the location of the customer. The EU’s geo-blocking regulation prohibits certain forms of geo-blocking, including through mandating access to all versions of a website in the EU, preventing discrimination between EU customers when distance shopping online or otherwise, and preventing discrimination in the payment terms accepted. This regulation came into force on 3 December 2018. The geo-blocking regulation does not apply to copyrighted online content, such as movies, e-books and video games.

The Geo-Blocking (Enforcement) Regulations 2018 enabled the domestic enforcement of the geo-blocking regulation. The regulations gave powers to certain regulators and acknowledged the right of customers to bring claims directly against infringing traders. These regulations came into force on the same day as the geo-blocking regulation. In the event of a no-deal exit from the EU, the geo-blocking regulation will be transposed directly into UK law, under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, as retained EU law. The Geo-Blocking (Enforcement) Regulations 2018 will also continue to have effect after a no-deal exit, unless revoked.

It is necessary to revoke both these pieces of legislation as it will not be possible to enforce effectively the geo-blocking regulation on behalf of UK customers after a no-deal exit from the EU. This is because EU regulators will no longer be obliged to bring action against businesses through EU mechanisms for cross-border co-operation; UK civil and commercial judgments would no longer be automatically enforced in EU member states and courts; and the UK Government cannot unilaterally enforce the geo-blocking regulation across the EU.

Given that geo-blocking cannot be enforced unilaterally by the UK across the EU in the event of a no deal, it is not possible to replicate the geo-blocking regulation’s benefits for UK consumers in domestic law. The provisions of the geo-blocking regulation do not apply to transactions occurring solely within one country. Therefore, there is no benefit to UK consumers in retaining a version of the geo-blocking regulation that applies only to the UK.