One of the core values of the European Union is to eliminate trade barriers of all sorts. It is now beginning to look at the huge and growing digital market. The EU has already confronted Google in the courts over it’s alleged restrictive practices and now it’s hoping to produce a model for the digital world.
The plan is simply to create a single digital market which would bring some standardisation of things like copyright, sales and of course taxes. It is hoped that this will both stimulate and legitimize the digital market and bring benefits to all economies.
The larger companies are already sensing the changes, this month Amazon announced it was restructuring it’s business in order to operate more fairly. Currently the vast majority of Amazon’s sales are processed in Luxembourg allowing them to avoid heavy tax costs in the European countries were these sales are actually generated. It is becoming increasingly unpopular and officials are likely to prepare legislation soon.
One of the biggest areas that hopefully be addressed is that of geo-blocking across the digital market. This is where companies prevent people buying or using services depending on their location, that is stopping an EU citizen purchase something from other EU member states – which is clearly not in the spirit of the free trade EU.
It’s been apparent for many years and the practice is estimated to cost 415 billion euros as customers are forced to payer higher prices based on their location. It is even apparent in public broadcasting too where you need a proxy for BBC iPlayer like this – http://iplayerusa.org/index.php/proxy-to-access-bbc-iplayer-abroad/ to watch anything if you’re based outside of the UK.
It’s not just Europe that this happens in, the practice is also common across the US as well. You can’t access most of the world’s biggest media sites if you’re in the wrong country, as I discovered trying to login to my Hulu account while on holiday in Canada last month.
It’s good to see this status quo challenged, priced discrimination and geo-blocking is becoming endemic across the internet and it doesn’t need to be like this. Countries wouldn’t accept these restrictive practices in other areas so why should we accept it in the online world. Break down these barriers and we encourage more trade, more competition and importantly more opportunities within the digital world.
Read more about British TV Abroad – http://www.uktv-online.com/online-british-tv-abroad/