Valve fined for geo-blocking Steam titles

The European Commission has fined Valve and several video game publishers with a presence on its Steam store for geo-blocking titles on the continent, according to a report from Engadget.

The punishment comes two years after charges were filed against Valve, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, KochMedia, and ZeniMax for breaching the EU’s competition laws blocking companies from restricting cross-border sales.

According to the EU, there were various bilateral agreements and “concerted practices” between Valve and each of the publishers which resulted in the geo-blocking of Steam game activation keys between September 2010 and October 2015.

Four of the five publishers had also participated in geo-blocking practices in the form of licensing and distribution agreements with their other distributors.

These agreements – which were in place during various periods between March 2007 and November 2018 – contained clauses that restricted cross-border sales, the Commission stated.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said that these practices deprived 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 Union.

In total, the companies will have to dish out €7.8 million (R140.8 million) in penalties.

The five publishers saw their fines reduced by between 10-15% for cooperating with the Commission’s investigation.

Valve, however, chose not to cooperate and was thus charged with a fine of over €1.6 million (R28.89 million) under the ordinary antitrust procedure.

Why geo-blocking was used

The implicated companies had restricted keys for use in certain regions in order to avoid Steam players in one country purchasing cheaper third-party game keys from other territories.

The company stated that the restrictions only applied to a small number of titles – approximately 3% of its library at the time.

Despite not agreeing with the Commission regarding its liability as a platform provider, the company turned off regions locks in Europe starting in 2015.

Valve disagreed with the findings of the Commission, and the fine levied against it.

It further argued that the elimination of region locks may also cause publishers to raise prices in less affluent regions to avoid price arbitrage.

Now read: The price of being a gamer in South Africa

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Valve fined for geo-blocking Steam titles