Valve together with Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, Valve and ZeniMax have been fined millions of dollars by the European Commission for infringing European Economic Area antitrust laws by preventing the sale of game codes between member countries (so called geo-blocking). The case covers practices carried out by these companies in periods between 2007 and 2018 and has resulted in a joint fine of more than €7.8 million ($9.49 million).
According to the EU Commission, the digital single market was systematically violated by these companies, preventing the purchase of game codes in countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, where they are cheaper, from other territories of the European Union.
Valve with 5 other companies have been fined millions for geo-blocking
In essence, “Valve and the publishers restricted cross-border sales of certain PC video games on the basis of the geographical location of users within the European Economic Area (‘EEA’), entering into, the so called “geo-blocking” practices,” they said in a statement.
Simply put, Valve allowed certain developers and publishers to block game codes that were purchased in one country and redeemed in another, in violation of the digital single market rules governing the European Economic Area. In other words, the case is not about the price of games on Steam, which can vary from country to country and is perfectly legal, but about codes to redeem such games on Steam that are sold in third-party online stores and often result in savings for consumers.
The fines have been sanctioned range from €340,000 ($413,000) to €1,664,000 ($2,200,000) although all have had a reduction of around 10% for cooperating with EU authorities and expressly acknowledging the facts and the breaches of EU antitrust rules. All except Valve, owner of Steam, the world’s largest PC games store, for which its penalty amounts to €1,624,000 ($1,970,000).
“More than 50% of all Europeans play video games. The videogame industry in Europe is thriving and it is now worth over €17 billion. Today’s sanctions against the “geo-blocking” practices of Valve and five PC video game publishers serve as a reminder that under EU competition law, companies are prohibited from contractually restricting cross-border sales. Such practices deprive European consumers of the benefits of the EU Digital Single Market and of the opportunity to shop around for the most suitable offer in the EU,” says Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president of the European Commission in charge of competition policy.