Czech inspectorate begins crackdown on ‘geo-blocking’ by online retailers

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The Czech Trade Inspection Authority (ČTI) has announced it has launched procedures against three unidentified online retailers for engaging in unjustified ‘geo-blocking’.

Photo: Pixabay
Companies use geo-blocking to prevent consumers in one EU country from buying cheaper versions of the product online elsewhere in the bloc.

ČTI spokesman Jiri Fröhlich noted that the practise contravenes European regulations that became part of Czech legislation last summer.

“This is the first inspection of Czech companies suspected of geo-blocking,” he said, as cited by the ČTK news agency. “In all problematic cases, the Slovak version of the website did not allow the consumer with a Czech billing address to buy the goods.”

Fröhlich declined to name the companies until proceedings have concluded but said two sold sportswear and one sold undergarments.

Ending geo-blocking is a priority for the European Commission as it tries to create a single market for digital services across the 28-nation bloc. The regulation putting an end to unjustified geo-blocking entered into force on 3 December 2018.

The EU is also targeting unjustified geo-filtering, practices through which online retailers permit customers to access goods and services cross-border but offer different terms or conditions.

Last year, Czech e-shop revenues increased by 15 percent to a record of CZK 161 billion, according to data from Shoptet, which operates 20,000 e-shops, roughly half of the Czech market. Electronics, cosmetics and clothing accounted for the largest share of turnover.

Industries argue that geo-blocking is necessary because they need to tailor their prices to specific domestic markets and banning the practise will raise prices in cheaper markets.