Free-to-Air Collective

You have the right to access your paid subscription content when travelling abroad

Did you know that since 2018, as a citizen of the European Union, you have the right to access online services that you have paid for, in all Member States? 

In the era of increased mobility and ever-growing online services, most of the people are technologically emancipated and use a variety of online services for both business and leisure. One of the issues in the European Union countries was an impossibility and limited use of services we use outside the state of residence. According to some reports, every second citizen of the EU has tried accessing their paid content and services from abroad. To enable European citizens who are staying in other EU countries to use the online services they use in their countries, a Portability Regulation has been proposed and adopted.

By adopting the Portability Regulation, the European Commission has made a significant step in improving the digital market and allowing citizens to efficiently use their paid online services wherever they are in the EU. The Digital Single Market policy, dating from 2015, is one of the European Commission’s ten political priorities. It aims at improving internet services by breaking down the barriers to cross-border online activity.

The portability regulation became applicable in all EU Member States on 1 April 2018. It allows European citizens who are not in their country of residence to have the same possibilities to watch their paid-for online content services as they would in their home country. This applies to every paid online content: TV series, movies, ebooks, sports, music. 

The main reason for creating the Regulation is to improve consumer rights and strengthen the internal digital single market in the EU. At its core, it is targeting the issue of the non-portability of online content services.

The Regulation requires that providers such as HBO, Netflix, MyTF1 verify the subscriber’s country of residence, which can be done by checking the IP address, payment details or the existing internet contract. This Portability Regulation also protects consumers if a contract with a provider contains any clauses which prohibit or limit the cross-border portability of online content services. In such cases, an agreement will be deemed unenforceable. 

In other words, if you’re temporarily in another Member State for business or vacation, you can now watch all of the paid online content that you use to view in your country.

Implementation

Implementing portability can precisely be a way to encourage users to accept a login system which is in practice necessary given the service’s obligation to verify the user’s Member State of residence, to use free online video services. Providing access to the service when travelling abroad can indeed be used as an incentive for mandatory registration, which allows for receiving more accurate feedback.

The first feedbacks from the services which have implemented portability seem somewhat positive. Those services have indicators on how the service is accepted: 

  • RTBF was one of the first services to achieve portability in the summer of 2018. It is worth noting that their rush was related to their group holding the rights to broadcast the FIFA World Cup. After half a year of portability, 10% of their accounts had activated the portability. That means more than 200.000 people in Belgium.  
  • VRT has noted that an average of 15% of the consumption of video each day comes from abroad.  
  • TVP Poland has provided data on both domestic and abroad uses: 87,26% of users are from Poland, 3,35% from Germany and 2,89% from the United Kingdom.  
  • YLE Finland’s Areena implemented portability in December 2018, the press campaign taking place only in February 2019. So far, nearly 18 500 Yle ID users have verified their domicile for portability.

F1TV is also one of the compliant services of the Regulation. So, if you are subscribed to this service, you are guaranteed all the rights from the Regulation. 

Unfortunately, cross-border portability is frequently unavailable however because:

  • a lot of online content is protected by copyright and similar rights (“related rights”) and the holders of these rights often only grant national licences to providers or
  • the providers of online content themselves have no interest in cross-border portability.

In any case, with this Regulation, the Commission made it a legal requirement for service providers to enable cross-border portability for online content in the case of temporary stays in the other Member States. 

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