EU Finds Valve in Breach of Antitrust Laws
Geo-blocking is a method by which games publishers prevent copies of digital games from working in different geological locations or being bought cheaper in a different country. For example a player in Germany has to pay the German price for a copy of the game and is prevented from being able to buy and play the same game for cheaper from a different country. In the EU, any company — such as Valve — found practicing geo-blocking is now in violation of the EU’s antitrust rules.
The EU has found Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and Zenimax were cited in the case as violating European antitrust laws and fined a total of 6.2 million euros — Valve, as owners of Steam, chose not to cooperate and were thus fined 1.6 million euros. The six companies who were found to be in violation of the EU’s antitrust regulations were fined a total of 7.8 million euros. EU Competition Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager was quoted saying, “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”.
While some herald this as a win for pro-consumerism many critics were quick to point out that publishers may, in the future, opt to charge the highest possible price across the entire market, preventing some gamers from having access to the games due to financial hardship.