Travel with your subscriptions: New digital media portability rules take effect in the EU

Travel with your subscriptions: New digital media portability rules take effect in the EU
In line with the EU’s vision for a digital single market, new digital media portability rules have come into force from this month. The regulation mandates that paid online content providers such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video must offer cross-border portability to their subscribers. Shashank Venkat presents the details 

Following a nine-month preparation period, the European Union’s (EU) long awaited regulation around the portability of paid online content services has taken effect from the beginning of April. Under this new regulation, content providers will be obliged to offer cross-border portability to their customers. So, if you are a subscriber in one EU member state, you can now expect the same experience if you are travelling or staying in any of the other EU member states on a temporary basis. The important distinction is that it is applicable only to paid content services and is just an optional requirement for free services.

This regulation, which enables Europeans to travel with their digital subscriptions, comes on the back of the abolishment of mobile roaming charges in the EU last year. The Digital Single Market initiative is indeed a welcome move for citizens of EU member states who have long faced inconveniences such as region-based blocks or an unfamiliar library of foreign language content while accessing paid digital media services in another EU country.

While companies cannot charge anything extra for enabling this cross-border portability, they will most likely welcome the move. At this point, subscription streaming service providers like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are focused on keeping their subscribers on their platforms, and this regulation will help boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.

According to data available on the European Commission website, these new rules are a by-product of new habits and behaviours exhibited by European citizens subscribing to digital services. For instance, consumer spending on video subscription services rose by 113% between 2010 and 2014. In addition, they estimate that up to 72 million people could make use of the data-portability feature by 2020. In fact, 60% of young European travellers have also indicated that travelling with their subscription service is an important feature to them.

However, for UK citizens, the benefits that come with digital media portability will only last for one more year. Thanks to Brexit, UK citizens will not be eligible for cross-border portability from 29th March 2019. While the obvious workaround is to download videos / music for offline use, the option may not be practical if someone is travelling for a longer duration.

That being said, these new rules will come as great news for subscribers as well as subscription-based businesses. At a time when the internet is blurring borders, the previous restrictions on cross-border portability felt somewhat archaic. The EU now stands corrected!