The purpose of this notice is to provide clarity to consumers, business customers, traders and regulators on the UK government’s plans in relation to the Geo-Blocking Regulation in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario.
Before 29 March 2019 (may also apply to new exit date on 31 December 2020)
The Geo-Blocking Regulation will apply from 3rd December 2018. The Geo-Blocking Regulation will prohibit the following activities:
- blocking access to, or forced redirection away from, a website on the basis of an internet user’s EU nationality or place of residence within the EU
- discrimination by traders on the basis of the customer’s nationality or place of residence when they are purchasing (i) goods online, (ii) electronically supplied services (such as web hosting or cloud storage, but excluding copyrighted material such as ebooks and streamed movies), or (iii) services provided in a specific physical location (such as a theme park)
- discrimination by traders against a means of payment solely on the basis of its place of issue within the EU
After March 2019 if there’s no deal
In a ‘no deal’ scenario, the UK version of the Geo-Blocking Regulation will cease to have effect in UK law. The original EU Regulation will continue to apply to UK businesses operating within the EU, and indeed all other non-EU businesses selling goods and services into the single market.
Following repeal of the Geo-Blocking Regulation in the UK, traders from the UK, EU and third countries would not be prohibited from discriminating between EU customers and UK customers in the respects set out above. For instance a UK trader would be able to offer different terms to a UK customer compared to a French customer.
The Geo-Blocking Regulation will continue to operate in the EU. UK traders who wish to continue operating in the EU will continue to be bound by the provisions of the Geo-Blocking Regulation when dealing with EU customers. This means that a UK trader will not be able to discriminate between customers in different EU member states, for instance between a French and a German customer, in the respects set out above.
Actions for businesses and other stakeholders
UK businesses and traders who wish to continue selling goods and services into the EU will need to continue to comply with the Geo-Blocking Regulation after exit, to the extent that the Geo-Blocking Regulation (which comes into force from 3rd December 2018) prohibits discrimination as between customers in different EU member states. However, traders who are already complying with the Geo-Blocking Regulation prior to exit should not need to take any additional steps to comply with the Geo-Blocking Regulation after exit.
Further information on traders’ ongoing obligations in relation to EU customers are available on the EU Commission’s website.
This notice is meant for guidance only. You should consider whether you need separate professional advice before making specific preparations.
It is part of the government’s ongoing programme of planning for all possible outcomes. We expect to negotiate a successful deal with the EU.
The UK government is clear that in this scenario we must respect our unique relationship with Ireland, with whom we share a land border and who are co-signatories of the Belfast Agreement. The UK government has consistently placed upholding the Agreement and its successors at the heart of our approach. It enshrines the consent principle on which Northern Ireland’s constitutional status rests. We recognise the basis it has provided for the deep economic and social cooperation on the island of Ireland. This includes North-South cooperation between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which we’re committed to protecting in line with the letter and spirit of Strand two of the Agreement.
The Irish government have indicated they would need to discuss arrangements in the event of no deal with the European Commission and EU Member States. The UK would stand ready in this scenario to engage constructively to meet our commitments and act in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland, recognising the very significant challenges that the lack of a UK-EU legal agreement would pose in this unique and highly sensitive context.
It remains, though, the responsibility of the UK government, as the sovereign government in Northern Ireland, to continue preparations for the full range of potential outcomes, including no deal. As we do, and as decisions are made, we’ll take full account of the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland.
Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area and participate in other EU arrangements. As such, in many areas, these countries adopt EU rules. Where this is the case, these technical notices may also apply to them, and EEA businesses and citizens should consider whether they need to take any steps to prepare for a ‘no deal’ scenario.