EU To Dismantle Online Borders

The European Union plan to impose a single digital market would put an end to the way films, television and music are sold in individual European countries. 

Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
The new iPhone 5c during a new product announcement at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced an inquiry into Europe’s e-commerce marketplace that would prevent prices varying from country to country.

Providers can block foreign internet addresses, meaning they’re able to adjust services and prices for each European market.

The Guardian gave the example of Apple charging £30 more for iPhone 6 on its Spanish website than it does at its UK Apple store. However, the UK Apple store wants £169 for Beats headphones, while the same item can be had for £113 in Germany.

“It has become normal to travel from Germany to Poland, say, and take back home the goods you have bought during your trip. Unfortunately, buying goods online is a lot more difficult,” Vestager explained. “It sounds like a paradox, but we still have a number of digital borders. It is high time we removed these barriers, which keep Europe’s digital markets fragmented.” If it gets the approval of the European Commission, the EU executive body responsible for framing legislation, it could be on the statute book by June.

Ardrus Ansip, the European Commissioner in charge of digital single market plans, says he’d be behind any proposal to outlaw the providers’ “geo-blocking.” Alice Enders, an economist at UK-based research firm Enders Analysis, says the EU is just “empire building” because it’s had a long-standing ambition to control copyright.