New EU regulation puts a damper on network-level ad blocking

According to EU regulation, ad blockers issued by Internet providers and at network level may be illegal. Mobile operators such as Three and TalkTalk have already begun to block adverts on mobile devices, but EU rules state that providers may only block content to comply with a member state’s laws, manage traffic across their network or for security reasons.

Updates to ad blocking regulation



That’s not necessarily the case for Three and Co. as most network level blocking is happening to please consumers and ensure their devices run faster and aren’t eating up too much data, in addition to hashing out deals with exclusive marketers for network-level ads that forgo the blockage at a provider’s discretion.

Whilst there seems to be no clear guidance on the issue in the UK, updated guidelines released by Berec, the EU regulation body, state that ad blocking at network level is deemed against the rules. However, individuals may block ads on their devices.

The regulation reads:

With regard to some of the suggestions made by stakeholders about traffic management features that could be requested or controlled by end-users, Berec notes that the regulation does not consider that end-user consent enables ISPs to engage in such practices at the network level. End-users may independently choose to apply equivalent features, for example via their terminal equipment or more generally on the applications running at the terminal equipment, but Berec considers that management of such features at the network level would not be consistent with the regulation.

The UK’s regulatory body Ofcom will now monitor such compliance and determine any complaints and breaches it receives.

Berec confirmed that there was no legal basis that justified blocking ads and net neutrality regulation applied to all of the EU. Net neutrality states that Internet services aren’t allowed to favour certain publishers and partners over others.

Whilst family filters, such as those used for children to regulate viewing of pornographic or other age-inappropriate content still apply, end-users have a right to see all content.