Current issues

Ban on surcharging for card payments

Applying surcharges to consumers for paying by particular payment methods (most commonly for payments by credit or debit card), is now against the law, as from 13 January 2018. Previously, retailers were allowed to charge additional amounts to customers for particular payment methods, provided they only passed on the direct costs borne by the business. This change will affect a wide range of businesses including some airlines, theatre and concert booking sites, take-away food apps and local councils.

EU negotiators agree to “end” unjustified geo-blocking

Political agreement across the EU has been reached to end unjustified geo-blocking between Member States for consumers wishing to buy products or obtain services online within the EU. Before the Regulation comes into force, online sellers will need to make sure that their online services do not discriminate against customers on the basis of their nationality or place of residence where it cannot be objectively justified. Examples of such discrimination include: re-routing customers to a different website according to their IP address, without consent; blocking customers with certain IP addresses; charging additional fees to customers from different Member States; providing a different service to customers from different Member States; and providing different terms and conditions to customers from different Member States.

CMA investigations

The Competition and Markets Authority has been particularly active in consumer enforcement. In 2017, we saw market investigations into online gambling, hotel booking sites, secondary ticketing sites and care homes. We expect this level of investigation and enforcement to carry on throughout 2018.

Digital Single Market

The EU’s Digital Single Market strategy will continue to be implemented throughout 2018, with consumer protection measures forming a central part of the initiative. On the horizon are measures relating to consumers’ rights in respect of digital content and online sales of goods. Businesses operating in this area need to keep track of developments during 2018.

Dates for the diary

13 January 2018 Ban on surcharging for card payments in force.
20 March 2018 Regulation (EU) 2017/1128 on cross-border portability of online content services comes into force.
By the end of 2018 Geo-blocking Regulation comes into effect.