The long-awaited Regulation (EU) 2018/302 (the "Geo-blocking Regulation") entered into force on 3 December 2018. Six months later, Belgium has taken the necessary steps to implement its enforcement obligations.
As previously reported here, the Geo-blocking Regulation tackles unjustified online sales discrimination by suppliers of cross-border goods and services vis-à-vis end users, both consumers and businesses, based on their nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. In order to ensure compliance, companies will have to review their terms and conditions of trading, their payment requirements and their distribution policies.
Bird & Bird provides you with a practical 6-step guide to ensure geo-blocking compliance.
Supervision and sanction
An important element of the Geo-blocking Regulation is the obligation on Member States to set up their own enforcement regime. Member States are required to designate bodies responsible for the proper and effective enforcement of the Geo-blocking Regulation, as well as to provide for appropriate sanctions in the event of infringement.
In Belgium, the legislator has introduced such an enforcement regime by means of the Act of 2 May 2019 on various provisions in the field of economics amending the Code of Economic Law. This Act came into effect very recently, namely on 1 June 2019.
The Act of 2 May 2019 entrusts the task of enforcement to the Economic Inspectorate of the Belgian Federal Public Service Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy. The European Consumer Centre Belgium (ECC Belgium) is also designated as the body to provide practical assistance to consumers regarding disputes under the Geo-blocking Regulation.
Breaches of the relevant legal provisions are punishable with criminal fines ranging from €26 to €10,000. Therefore, it is of importance for companies active in Belgium to henceforth comply with the Geo-blocking Regulation.
If you are looking for further information as to the status of implementation of the Geo-blocking Regulation in other specific EU countries, have a look at our Geo-blocking Regulation Tracker on our dedicated webpage.
Exclusion of copyright
Importantly, copyright protected works and neighbouring rights content offered by certain electronically supplied services (such as e-books, music streaming services, software and online videogame) are currently not subject to the geo-blocking rules. The exclusion is mainly because the new EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market covers such services. However, this exclusion will be reviewed by the European Commission by March 2020.