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March 2018 date set for new EU rules on portability of online content services

New EU rules on the portability of online content services will come into effect on 20 March 2018.

The EU regulation on cross-border portability of online content services came into force on 4 July after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) on 14 June. The regulation is designed to improve EU consumers' access to online content that they have already subscribed to when they are "temporarily present" in another EU country.

The substance of the regulation had been finalised earlier in June following a vote by the Council of Ministers, which is made up of representatives of the national governments of the countries that make up the EU. MEPs had previously voted to approve the new rules in May.

Under the new rules, online content service providers will need to ensure that they make their service available to paid subscribers "in the same manner as in the member state of residence" when those subscribers are "present in a member state other than the member state of residence for a limited period of time".

The regulation specifically provides that the obligation includes "providing access to the same content, on the same range and number of devices, for the same number of users and with the same range of functionalities". Online content service providers are prohibited from charging subscribers extra to facilitate their new access rights.

For the purposes of the regulation, the provision of online content, as well as the accessing and use of that content, will be deemed to have occurred in the EU country where subscribers are resident rather than in the country where they are temporarily present.

Service providers will have the option of verifying the subscribers' country of residence using identification authentication methods listed in the new legislation to ensure that the rules are not being abused. 

The new legislation will apply to contracts for the provision of online content services put in place prior to the new rules taking effect.

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