From 20 March 2018 consumers who pay for online content services (such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video) can access the same content when visiting another country in the EU.

What is the Digital Single Market strategy?

In May 2015 the European Commission launched the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy which, among other aims, seeks to create an internal European market for digital content services by allowing for wider online access to copyright works by users across the EU.

The DSM strategy is intended to overcome national barriers of outdated and divergent legislation (in areas such as copyright, data protection, audio-visual media and telecoms) so that laws can be modernised and harmonised to connect and integrate the European digital market.

Essentially, the European Commission wants to mirror the purpose and benefits of the wider European Single Market concept to enhance Europe's digital economy.

What is cross-border portability for online content services?

The cross-border portability for online content services regulation (the “regulation”) means that subscribers who have paid for online content services will be able to access content when they are temporarily visiting Member States outside of their State of residence (e.g. when travelling for work, holidaying or temporarily studying) in the same way that they would at home.

The European Commission sees this as a way to improve competitiveness by encouraging innovation in online services and a means of providing an internal market for digital content and services.

The content of the regulation has been agreed by the European Parliament and Council and was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 30 June 2017.

This means that the regulation will be applicable from 20 March 2018 with direct effect in all Member States.

Who does the regulation apply to?

The regulation will apply to all paid-for online content services; they will be required to allow their customers to access the content that they subscribe to in exactly the same way, wherever they are in the European Union.

To avoid any abuses, service providers will verify the subscriber’s Member State of residence by providing no more than two criteria from a list of verification means (e.g. payment details, payment of a licence fee for broadcasting services, IP checks, etc.).

Free to air services can choose whether their subscribers can benefit from the regulation, again they would need to carry out verification of the subscriber’s Member State of residence.

Why has this happened?

Quite simply, more and more Europeans are using mobile devices to access content using the internet. Between 2014 and 2015 the number of users of video subscription services grew by 56%.

Subscribers were becoming frustrated that they had legally paid to access content such as sport, films and TV series in their country of residence, but were unable to view it when visiting another Member State.

The increase in popularity of the services, combined with last month's abolition of roaming charges, has strengthened consumer demand and expectation for accessing content in all EU countries.

This regulation adheres to the pillars of the DSM strategy by:

  • removing obstacles to ensure better access for consumer and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe
  • creating the right conditions for digital networks and innovative services to flourish
  • maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.