The European Commission has issued fines to Valve and several other major gaming companies for geo-blocking digital content within the European Economic Area (EEA). The Commission found that geo-blocking was in violation of EU antitrust laws.
Why has the European Commission fined Valve?
According to a report issued by the European Commission today, Valve - along with several publishers including Capcom, Focus Home Interactive, and Bandai Namco - collaborated with publishers to "provide geo-blocked Steam activation keys". This meant consumers could buy games for different prices depending on which country they shopped in, which the Commission says "partitioned the EEA market in violation of EU antitrust rules". Here's a rather handy diagram courtesy of the European Commission demonstrating how Valve and publishers colluded to engage in geo-blocking:
As a punitive measure, the European Commission has issued some pretty hefty fines to Valve and five other major gaming companies. The Commission says Valve "chose not to cooperate" with it, and so a prohibition decision has been taken, resulting in the fee you're about to see. Note that, despite Valve's refusal to co-operate, two companies were issued fines larger than Valve's. The companies, and the fines they have been issued, are as follows:
- Valve: 1,624,000 EUR
- Bandai Namco: 340,000 EUR (10% reduction for co-operation)
- Capcom: 396,000 EUR (15% reduction for co-operation)
- Focus Home: 2,888,000 EUR (10% reduction for co-operation)
- Koch Media: 977,000 EUR (10% reduction for co-operation)
- ZeniMax (Bethesda's parent company): 1,664,000 EUR (10% reduction for co-operation)
This investigation began back in 2017, when the Commission announced it would be looking into potential collusion and geo-blocking between Valve and these five publishers. Specifically, these companies are in breach of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which "prohibits agreements between companies that prevent, restrict, or distort competition" within the single market of the EU. It's also in contravention of Regulation 2018/302, or the "Geo-blocking Regulation", which came into force in 2018. The regulation specifies that customers must not pay additional fees for any digital products sold within the EU single market, no matter from which country they are purchased.
How do you feel about the European Commission's decision? Let us know in the comments below!