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Get ready for a whole lot more site blocking in the EU, thanks to a new consumer protection law

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European Union lawmakers have approved a new consumer protection regulation that, among other things, allows for the wholesale blocking of websites without the need for judicial authorization.

The reasoning seems innocuous enough on the surface. More than a third of online shops and booking websites were found to be breaching EU consumer laws, when a survey was made a few years ago. So new rules are needed to make enforcement of those laws more effective.

Under the new Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) regulation—which, like all regulations, introduces uniformity to its enforcement across the EU—member states must be able to get help from domain registrars to identify rogue traders, conduct “mystery shopping” investigations, and order the “explicit display of a warning to consumers.”

Here’s the important bit, though, in Article 9(4), which covers minimum enforcement powers:

“…where no other effective means are available to bring about the cessation or the prohibition of the infringement covered by this Regulation and in order to avoid the risk of serious harm to the collective interests of consumers:

(i) the power to remove content or to restrict access to an online interface or to order the explicit display of a warning to consumers when they access an online interface;
(ii) the power to order a hosting service provider to remove, disable or restrict access to an online interface; or
(iii) where appropriate, the power to order domain registries or registrars to delete a fully qualified domain name and to allow the competent authority concerned to register it;

including by requesting a third party or other public authority to implement such measures”

Remember, in EU law, regulations (unlike directives) must be applied evenly across the bloc.

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