As eCommerce develops so to do the regulations designed to control the various aspects of the market. In Europe, these regulations have been delivered by the European Commission, which continues to investigate avenues to ensure that protections are in place to protect consumers and businesspeople.

The aim of the regulations is to break down online barriers so that people have full access to goods and services offered online by businesses in the EU. The body works to:

  • end unjustified cross-border barriers
  • facilitate cheaper cross-border parcel deliveries
  • protect the rights of online customer
  • promote cross border access to online content

These form the cornerstones of the Digital Single Market Strategy. The EU has made it easier and safer for European consumers to shop online from anywhere in 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 geo-blocking;
  • revised consumer protection rules that will enter into force this year;
  • new VAT rules for online sales of goods and services that will enter into force in 2021

An end to unjustified geoblocking in the EU

Geoblocking prevents users from buying from a website based in another EU Member State, creating barriers for consumers wanting to buy cross-border.

The changes include

  • New rules entered into force on 3 December 2018, across the EU which ended online discrimination on the basis of nationality or place of residence.
  • There are no longer unjustified barriers, such rerouting 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.

As an eCommerce provider, it is vital that these changes be understood and followed.

One of the major changes that need to be made is cross-border parcel delivery pricing. Prices are on average 3 to 5 times higher than domestic delivery prices for all products. 62{d1a1694403c5660430dc420b8f142668f13097a51a1c1fc172179b975fdf78b3} of companies wanting to sell online identify high delivery costs as a problem. The change is an important development of cross border eCommerce.

New rules on online cross-border parcel delivery services have been in place since May 2018. They guarantee price transparency and competition. There is no cap on delivery prices, but businesses now have to disclose their prices clearly, so the consumer is aware of the cost of buying from a site in France as opposed to one in Germany, for example. There is a dedicated website where consumers can look up parcel delivery prices as supplied by the European Commission.

National authorities will collect information every year from parcel delivery companies. Where parcel delivery is subject to a 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, new rules making it easier for the Member States to protect consumers online have been in place. The rules 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 to trace the identity of rogue online traders.

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

  • Online market places have to inform consumers whether they are buying from a trader or a private individual, so they are aware of their rights if something goes wrong
  • When consumers search online, they must be clearly informed when a search result is being paid for by a trader. Online marketplaces have to share the main parameters determining the ranking of the results.
  • When consumers pay for a digital service, they benefit from information rights that allow the buyer 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.

Access to Audiovisual Services

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

The Commission is also working on creating a framework for copyright in the EU. The aim is to improve cross-border access to online content, by simplifying licencing for online transmissions.


Having professional advice means that you can focus on business. As many of the changes are rolled out over time and are likely to be reviewed again since Brexit this years, it can make managing deadlines and updates complex.