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Portugal bans geo-blocking after Madeirans were left out during pandemic

Portugal bans geo-blocking after Madeirans were left out during pandemic

The crisis revealed some of the plights of the islander communities in Europe

Imagine you would like to buy something off the Internet, but you can’t because the suppliers refuse to deliver to your place of residence whereas they would to other places in your own country. That is, in fact, exactly what Madeira residents experienced during the height of the COVID pandemic when online merchants refused to deliver orders to the island.

The irony, in this case, is that there is EU-level regulation that forbids this practice, known as geo-blocking, where certain regions or countries are excluded from online access to services, with the idea that the whole of EU is a single market.

Despite the European Regulation on this matter, the truth is that since it only applies in cross-border relationships, it prevents many consumers from having access to goods at a national level. Cross-border geo-blocking was forbidden, but not so at a national level”, was the comment from the Portuguese Association for Consumer Protection (DECO), written on their website.

Consumer rights and protection

Madeira is an autonomous region consisting of two inhabited islands in the Atlantic Ocean that are much closer to the western coast of Africa than they are to mainland Europe. Nevertheless, it is a Portuguese territory and thus EU laws apply there as in the rest of the bloc.

Local consumers reached out to DECO, which then lobbied the Portuguese Parliament to pass a law that prohibits discrimination based on place of residence. The law prohibits geographic blocking and unjustified discrimination, as well as other forms of discrimination in online sales based, directly or indirectly, on the consumer's place of residence or establishment.

This means that companies in Portugal are subject to the following conditions:

  • They are prevented from limiting or preventing the consumer's access to their websites, or from redirecting them to another website without their consent;
  • They cannot apply different conditions to online payment transactions by virtue of the consumer's place of residence or establishment, or even based on the location of their payment account at the place of establishment of the payment service provider;
  • They have the obligation to provide delivery conditions for their goods or services throughout the national territory, although they may present different delivery conditions depending on the place of residence, namely regarding the cost of delivery or transport.



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