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POLAND: EU Geo-Blocking Regulation

From today, EU Geo-blocking regulations apply. In March, the EU Council adopted the regulation to reduce barriers in e-commerce, commonly referred to as geo-blocking. It will force businesses to make their products and services available to all EU residents, without differentiation based on location or nationality. The approved regulation took a stripped form in comparison to the initial proposal – traders will not be able to discriminate between customers based on their location or nationality in terms of their offer, website access, pricing, and payment method, however shipping to another country will not be compulsory. It largely applies to digital service providers (hosting and cloud services) and providers of services (e.g. entertainment), which sold abroad, but fulfilled in the provider’s country. The provisions will have to be fully adopted by member states by the end of 2018 – the Polish bill on the protection of competition and consumers is currently being amended to account for the EU Geo-blocking regulation. It will determine the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) as the entity responsible for enforcing the regulation in Poland.

This new law has a limited scope; the EU Council will review and potentially broaden it after a 2-year period. An amendment could encompass copyrighted content, which was previously dropped. Some commentators argue that this measure will increase prices of products and services, which are often adjusted to average incomes depending on country. For entrepreneurs from less developed member states it may, however, provide an opportunity to expand to a larger EU digital market. Traders, where necessary, will have to alter their sales platforms to meet the requirements of the new regulation – potentially generating significant costs. Consequently, however, the new regulation will improve competitiveness within the digital market and will allow private and legal entities to benefit from a unified service standard.