Valve Fined Over EU Anti-Trust Breaches

By Ben Hamill - January 22 2021

Valve Fined Over EU Anti-Trust Breaches

Valve, owner of online PC gaming store Steam, has been slapped with an anti-trust fine by the European Union’s Competition Commission for breaching antitrust rules. Valve and five other firms, all games publishers, were fined €7.8 million after they were all found guilty of geo-blocking practises. The five games publishers are Koch Media, Focus Home, Capcom, ZeniMax, and Bandai Namco.

The fines resulted from the fact that Valve and co. have been restricting cross-border sales of certain video games for PC. Such restrictions were made on the basis of the geographical locations of users within the EU’s economic jurisdiction. Geo-restricting is in breach of EU competition law. According to the Commission, the sole purpose of the geo-restrictions had been to main specific price differences between countries located in Eastern Europe, and countries located in Western Europe. The idea was reportedly to block users from getting the best price by shopping around a single European market.

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To Block Or Not To Block

Europe’s video games industry is a gold mine and currently worth well in excess of an annual €17 billion. For this reason, said Competition Policy Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, the fines imposed on the guilty parties should serve as a fresh reminder that EU countries aren’t allowed to restrict cross-border sales. Such practices rob European consumers of the opportunity to benefit from EU anti-trust safeguards, said Vestager, as well as from enjoying the perks of the EU Digital Single Market.

The geo-blocking practices involved roughly 100 PC games of a range of different genres, confirmed the Commission in its ruling, including sports video games, simulation games, and shooter and/or action video games. Valve implemented geo-blocking with the help of the use of blocked Steam activation keys. Such blocks prevented users from activating certain games outside certain European countries – including Poland, Estonia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Czechia.

Pardon For Some

The fines imposed were in line with the guidelines set out by the EU Commission’s 2006 Guidelines on Fines.

According to an EU press release, all five game publishers cooperated fully with the Commission’s anti-trust investigation, providing evidence of relevance to the official probe. As a result, the Commission ultimately granted major reductions to the fines of the games publishers.

Valve, however, has in the meantime stuck to its guns of having done no wrong, and has vowed to appeal the Competition Commission’s ruling regarding the breaching of European Union anti-trust consumer laws.

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