EC outlines plans to illegalise geo-blocking, enforce EU digital price parity

Europe’s 28 different national digital markets could be merged into one if new proposed reforms from the European Commission are made law.

This would bring an end to price differences for digital purchases from the likes of Steam, PSN and Xbox Live in different European countries, forcing parity across regions.

The EC’s intention to de-fragment the market was first revealed in March.

The proposals are wide-ranging but focus on three key principles – making it easier for consumers to buy goods from other EU countries, preparing for a single digital market and maximising the potential growth for the new intended digital economy.

Proposals include:

  • The illegalisation of geo-blocking (which would prove a particular problem for Steam and other services that lock consumers away from content not purchased in their own country)
  • Alterations to copyright law ensuring that content bought in one region can still be accessed or used in another, with enforcement against commercial-scale infringements of intellectual property rights”
  • A close look at how digital platforms curate their content, the concern being that some content is being given visual priority over others

All of this could result in a ‘European free flow of data initiative’ that would ensure the free movement of data within the region. Effectively, games purchased in one EU region will by law have to be playable in another.

The EC intends to deliver on these proposals by the end of 2016.

"Today, we lay the groundwork for Europe’s digital future,” EC president Jean-Claude Juncker said. I want to see pan-continental telecoms networks, digital services that cross borders and a wave of innovative European start-ups. I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market – wherever they are in Europe.

Exactly a year ago, I promised to make a fully Digital Single Market one of my top priorities. Today, we are making good on that promise.”

Digital Economy and Society commissioner Gnther Oettinger added: "Our economies and societies are going digital. Future prosperity will depend largely on how well we master this transition. Europe has strengths to build on, but also homework to do, in particular to make sure its industries adapt, and its citizens make full use of the potential of new digital services and goods. We have to prepare for a modern society and will table proposals balancing the interests of consumers and industry."

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