The European Commission breaks down online barriers so that people may enjoy full access to all goods and services offered online by businesses in the EU. Ending unjustified cross-border barriers, facilitating cheaper cross-border parcel deliveries, protection of online customer rights and promoting cross border access to online content are cornerstones of the Digital Single Market Strategy.

The EU has made it easier and safer for European consumers to shop online no matter where they are 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 in 2020;
  • new VAT rules for online sales of goods and services that will enter into force in 2021

New rules to end unjustified geoblocking in the EU

Geo-blocking prevents us buying from a website based in another EU Member State. This creates barriers for consumers in cross-border shopping.

What is the Commission doing about it?

  • New rules entered into force on 3 December 2018, across the European Union which will end online discrimination on the basis of nationality or place of residence.
  • The rules ensure that we no longer face unjustified barriers such as being re-routed 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.

Factsheets, Guide and Q&A

Making cross-border parcel deliveries cheaper

Cross-border parcel delivery prices are on average 3 to 5 times higher than domestic delivery prices for all products. 62% of companies that wish to sell online identify high delivery costs as a problem. This is an important break in the development of cross border e-commerce.

New rules on online cross-border parcel delivery services have been in place since May 2018, aimed at guaranteeing price transparency and competition. This will make it easier to find the cheapest way of sending a parcel from one Member State to another.

What do the new rules change?

There is no cap on delivery prices, but businesses now have to disclose their prices clearly, so the consumer can easily compare. As of next year, consumers will also be able to consult parcel delivery prices on a dedicated webpage on the European Commission's website.

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 2020, new rules will enter into force, making it easier for Member States to protect consumers online. The rules will 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, in order to trace the identity of rogue online traders.

The Commission has proposed new rules for digital contracts, which are currently being discussed by the Parliament and the Council. The proposed rules would create clearer rights for consumers when accessing digital content and digital services. For example, if the digital content they receive is not as agreed or as they reasonably expected;they would have specific contractual rights. These rights would also apply when the consumer has provided personal data to the trader without paying a price.

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

  • Online market places will 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 will be clearly informed when a search result is being paid for by a trader and online marketplaces will have to inform about the main parameters determining the ranking of the results.
  • When consumers pay for a digital service, they will benefit from certain information rights with 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.

Facilitating Access to Audiovisual services

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

The Commission is also working to create a modern framework for copyright in the EU which will allow more cross-border access to content online, by making licencing for online transmissions simpler.

New EU rules for audiovisual media have been agreed on, adapt existing rules to the digital age and promoting European works and preserving cultural diversity. These rules are not in force yet.

The Digital Services Act 

The Commission has adopted a proposal for a Digital Services Act (DSA). Together with a Digital Markets Act, this proposal will create a safer and more open digital space for all users and ensure a level playing field for businesses.

The DSA has three specific goals: 

  • To protect consumers and their fundamental rights online more effectively
  • To establish a powerful transparency and accountability framework for online platforms
  • To foster innovation, growth and competitiveness within the single market

While the e-Commerce Directive remains the cornerstone of digital regulation, much has changed since its adoption 20 years ago. The DSA will address these changes and the challenges that have come with them, particularly in relation to online intermediaries.

Useful Links

  • Factsheet that gives an overview of what EU provides for its consumers (available in most EU languages)
  • For detailed information on your rights as consumers, you can access the Your Europe website, in all official EU languages
  • If you want to know more about opportunities that EU provides for its citizens, refer to  the EU And Me
  • The Digital Services Act Package