CHOICE targets online geoblocking

We've told the Attorney General’s department to protect consumers who bypass online geoblocks.
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01.CHOICE lodges submission


CHOICE is calling for the Attorney General’s department to protect consumers who bypass online geoblocks.

The recommendation, asking for the amendment of copyright regulations, has been included in CHOICE’s submission to the Attorney General’s department’s review of Technological Protection Measures.

Technological Protection Measures, or TPMs, are meant to prevent consumers from accessing copyrighted material without permission. However many companies also use TPMs to restrict the access and flow of their products across national borders for commercial purposes, a practice known as geoblocking.

At the moment consumers are allowed to circumvent TPMs which are used for geoblocking in some instances. For example consumers are allowed to bypass DVD and video game region lockouts.

Online geoblocks

Online TPMs which identify a user’s location via their IP address in order to restrict their access to certain goods and prices are a form of geoblocking.

Geoblocking is a now a common practice on websites such as iTunes and Steam, which often charge Australians more for their products. Other sites such as Netflix and Hulu don’t allow Australians to access their products at all.

While there are many measures to overcome these blocks, such as Virtual Private Networks, CHOICE does not believe that consumers are adequately protected when using them.

What CHOICE wants

Geoblocking enables companies to price discriminate, which CHOICE found to be the major contributor to Australia’s high computer, software, gaming, and music prices.  The use of online TPMs was also the subject of an ACCC investigation into possibly anti-competitive behaviour by Australian fashion retailers earlier this year.   

CHOICE does not believe that consumers should face potential criminal or civil liability for simply trying to get a better deal on legitimate goods and service.

CHOICE recommended to the Attorney General’s department that new exceptions be made that specifically allow consumers to bypass online geoblocks.

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