The hypocrisy is rife within the EU (not such a great shock it has to be said), but it is such a glaring “we don’t know what the fuck we are doing” type that I simply couldn’t resist putting finger to key. Ya see, as any business knows, distance selling is one of many keys to success. More often than not, products and services are sold to other territories. This takes distance selling to a different pot. Cross-border. Businesses aren’t just having to apply local laws and so forth, once their product crosses an international border, it has to comply with the destination laws too.
This is one of those times when, fundamentally the Single Market™ is a benefit. That is, the Single Market without all the political rubbish that goes with it. The vast majority of EU diktat has in it somewhere “to harmonise the operation of the internal market” – I’d go as far as saying that they all do. After all, the Single Market (for all its flaws) is in fact a useful benefit to the EU in general – it does not outweigh the negatives associated with the Commission, Parliament or Council.
Most will of course be aware of the Tobacco Products Directive (Directive 2014/40/EU), and in this case Article 18 – Cross-border distance sales of tobacco products whereupon the EU have decided in their infinite wisdom to allow the 28 (soon to be 27) Member States to decide whether or not to prohibit cross-border distance sales. The Directive states:
Member States may prohibit cross-border distance sales of tobacco products to consumers. Member States shall cooperate to prevent such sales. Retail outlets engaging in cross-border distance sales of tobacco products may not supply such products to consumers in Member States where such sales have been prohibited. Member States which do not prohibit such sales shall require retail outlets intending to engage in cross-border distance sales to consumers located in the Union to register with the competent authorities in the Member State, where the retail outlet is established, and in the Member State, where the actual or potential consumers are located. Retail outlets established outside the Union shall be required to register with the competent authorities in the Member State where the actual or potential consumers are located. All retail outlets intending to engage in cross-border distance sales shall submit at least the following information to the competent authorities when registering
So Finland, in their infinite wisdom have decided that, for now at least cross-border sale is legal, it’s actually illegal to receive the shipment. Oddly enough, this insanity only applies to business to consumer, not business to business or consumer to consumer. Their reason? “it’s too hard to effectively oversee”. So much for market harmonisation then.
Thing is, the European Commission are sure to be trolling us with their article on Geo-Blocking with the opening commentary of:
Geo-blocking and other geographically-based restrictions undermine online shopping and cross-border sales by limiting the possibility for consumers and businesses to benefit from the advantages of online commerce.
Quite. Restricting who can, or cannot order from a digital business purely based on their digital location (which can be spoofed) does nothing to help the “harmonisation of the internal market”, yet that is exactly what they are doing by allowing Member States to dictate who can or cannot buy a “tobacco product” under Article 18 of the TPD. So under this new GeoBlocking proposal I should be allowed to buy a “tobacco” product from any Member State regardless of my “digital” location, yet the TPD allows Member States to prohibit cross-border sale of “tobacco” products.
If cross border sale on a non-discriminatory basis – i.e. not allowing businesses (or even Member States) from buying (or selling) over borders is such a problem, then why allow Member States to prohibit just that in the TPD? After all, this new proposal (and draft Directive) for addressing GeoBlocking was made after the TPD was voted through.
This Regulation aims at preventing discrimination based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment, including geo-blocking, in cross-border commercial transactions between traders and customers relating to the sales of goods and the provision of services within the Union. It seeks to address direct as well as indirect discrimination, thus also covering unjustified differences of treatment on the basis of other distinguishing criteria which lead to the same result as the application of criteria directly based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. Such other criteria can be applied, in particular, on the basis of information indicating the physical location of customers, such as the IP address used when accessing an online interface, the address submitted for the delivery of goods, the choice language made or the Member State where the customer’s payment instrument has been issued.
So are they going to suddenly get rid of Article 18 of the TPD? Of course not. In fact, the revised TPD is nowhere to be found in the draft on GeoBlocking, natch.
Yet more evidence on how inept the EU truly is when it comes to matters of “public health” (among other things).
(Image credit Pressmaster/shutterstock.com)