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The initial findings of the EU's e-commerce inquiry point to an imminent clampdown on the practice of "geo-blocking": preventing consumers from viewing or buying goods and services online outside their home territory.
The inquiry was launched in 6 May 2015 to allow the Commission to identify possible restrictions or distortions of competition in European e-commerce markets. Currently, only 15% of consumers purchased online from a seller based in another EU Member State and the Commission considers that to be a problem. The inquiry will be relevant to every business that sells or facilitates the sale of goods or services online in the EU.
Since launching the inquiry, the Commission has sent questionnaires to several thousand online retailers, marketplaces, suppliers/manufacturers and digital content providers. Its initial findings are based on replies from more than 1,400 retailers, marketplaces and digital content providers from across the EU. Responses from suppliers/manufacturers will be covered in a formal Preliminary Report expected to be published in mid-2016.
The message from the initial findings is clear: geo-blocking is widespread. On an EU-wide basis, some form of geo-blocking is used by:
The product categories most affected by such restrictions were: