Some facts about regulation on portability of online content services in EU

The aim is to ensure that Europeans who buy or subscribe to films, sports broadcasts, music, e-books and games in their home Member State are able to access this content when they travel or stay temporarily in another EU country. The Regulation comes into force on 1 April 2018 in all EU Member States.

The new rules do not prevent service providers to offer additional options to their users when they are abroad, such as access to the content which is available in the country they travel in. Whether the service provider in question will allow or maintain access to the local content in addition to their obligation under the regulation will therefore depend entirely on the service provider.

The portability regulation covers situations in which subscribers are temporarily abroad. This term is not defined in the Regulation. However, what is meant by this is to be present in a Member State other than the Member State of residence. It covers various scenarios including holidays and business trips. The new rules do not set any limits for the use of the portability feature, as long as the user resides in another Member State. Service providers should inform their subscribers of the exact conditions of their portability offers.

The service provider will have to verify the subscriber’s country of residence. This will be done at the conclusion and renewal of the contract. Service providers will be able to verify the country of residence through different information provided by the subscriber. The Regulation provides for a closed list of such verification means to limit interference with consumers’ privacy. The means listed include for example payment details, payment of a licence fee for broadcasting services, the existence of a contract for internet or telephone connection, IP checks or the subscriber’s declaration of their address of residence. The service provider will be able to apply not more than two means of verification from this list. Any processing of personal data will have to be carried out in accordance with EU data protection rules.

Providers of online content services that are free of charge are able to choose whether they want to benefit from these new rules. Once they opt-in and allow portability under the Regulation, all rules will apply to them in the same manner as for the paid services. This means that the subscribers will have to log-in to be able to access and use content when temporarily abroad, and service providers will have to verify the Member State of residence of the subscriber. If providers of free of charge online content services decide to make use of the new portability rules, they are required to inform their subscribers about this decision prior to providing the service.

Under the new rules, online content services will not be allowed to impose additional charges on subscribers for providing cross-border portability of their content.