BEREC, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications, has published guidance confirming that network-level ad blocking is considered a violation of the EU's rules on net neutrality.
Under EU rules, internet service providers, including mobile network operators, may not block, slow down, alter, restrict or otherwise interfere with content when providing an internet access service.
In the guidelines, designed to provide clarification for national regulatory authorities within the EU, BEREC addressed specific cases that have drawn controversy, and specifically looked at the rise of ad blocking.
“Hopefully the timing of the guidance, coming as it does when network-level ad blocking remains limited to isolated cases in sub-regions of the EU, will nip the problem in the bud," said the report. "Consumers have the right not to receive online advertising if they choose not to, and to compensate publishers and providers of other online services in some other way. But the imposition of network-level blocking would have nefarious medium-to-long-term consequences for European media and Europe’s digital economy.”
A draft version of the guidelines was revealed earlier this year, and BEREC launched a six-week public consultation in the middle of July, receiving almost 500,000 contributions on the report from a diverse range of sources, the most for any single report it has produced.
"This is a very important development, and a positive step for our industry," said Guy Phillipson, CEO of the IAB UK. "Network level ad-blocking is by nature a blunt tool which goes against net neutrality guidelines, which state that all internet users should have equal access to content and advertising online. We're very much encouraged by this development and expect Ofcom to take this guidance fully into account for UK law."