* EU to ban online discrimination based on place of
* EU lawmakers extend scope to cover Spotify, iTunes
* Automatic re-routing will not be allowed
* Final proposal needs to be agreed with EU member states
By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS, April 25 European Union lawmakers
voted on Tuesday to ban online retailers from treating consumers
differently depending on where they live and expanded their
proposed law to include music streaming services such as Spotify
and Apple's iTunes.
Ending so-called geoblocking is a priority for the European
Commission as it tries to create a single market for digital
services across the 28-nation bloc, but many industries argue
that they tailor their prices to specific domestic markets.
Tuesday's vote means the European Parliament can begin final
negotiations with EU member states to reach a deal on the
proposal, after which it would become law.
The proposal, which will apply to e-commerce websites such
as Amazon, Zalando and eBay, as well
as for services provided in a specific location like car rental,
forbids online retailers from automatically re-routing customers
to their domestic website without their consent.
Amazon already makes it retail websites accessible to
customers anywhere in Europe and says 98 percent of its own
stock is available to shoppers from any European country.
In a blow for the book publishing and music industries,
European Parliament members voted to include copyright-protected
content such as music, games, software and e-books in the law.
That would mean music streaming services such as Spotify and
iTunes would not be able to prevent, for example, a French
customer buying a cheaper subscription in Croatia, if they have
the required rights.
The music industry has argued that extending the geoblocking
ban to copyright-protected content could lead to a waterbed
effect - pushing up prices in areas that are cheaper now.
However, EU member states favour excluding
copyright-protected services from the geoblocking ban.
"Booksellers can't be forced to sell across borders. It is a
company choice, in line with the evolution of the market, and
booksellers' first concern is to keep their business afloat,"
said Fabian Paagman and Luc Treutenaere, co-Presidents of the
European and International Booksellers Federation.
Under the proposal, consumers would be able to buy goods
online even when the retailer does not deliver to their country
of residence. Retailers would not be forced to deliver
cross-border though, so an Italian buying a TV off a German
website would have to arrange their own delivery or collect it.
Consumers will also be able to take advantage of better
prices for car rentals, hotel rooms or music festivals on
websites in other countries, which may have previously re-routed
them to their local version.
"What we want is simple: to end discrimination in the single
market, based on people's nationality, residence or temporary
location," said Roza Thun, the MEP who is steering the
legislation through the European Parliament.
(Editing by David Clarke)