EU fines video game firms for blocking cross-border sales

21 Janvier, 2021, 09:12 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • EU fines Valve, ZeniMax and other publishers over PC game geo-blocking

As the owners and operators of Steam, Valve - who "chose not to cooperate with the Commission" - were fined €1.6 million.

The EU's executive Commission said Wednesday that it fined Valve Corp., which owns the Steam online PC game distribution platform, and the game makers a total of 7.8 million euros ($9.5 million) because they restricted cross-border sales in violation of the bloc's antitrust rules. These lasted generally longer, i.e. between three and 11 years and were implemented, depending on each bilateral relationship, between March 2007 and November 2018. According to the announcement, these firms were determined to be engaging in unlawful restriction of cross-border sales of products (video games) across countries that lie within the EEA (European Economic Area). As a result, the Commission opened the antitrust proceedings in February 2017, which has led to massive fines for all six companies. 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. This goes against the concept of the European Digital Single Market. Simultaneously, the publisher had deals in place with Valve to assign a Steam authentication key to each unit sold, which allows products bought outside of the Steam digital marketplace to be activated on the service. Essentially, the publishers involved sold games at reduced prices in eight countries in the European Union which have lower average incomes, including Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.

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During the seven year investigation, Valve cooperated extensively with the European Commission ("EC"), providing evidence and information as requested. However, The Verge reports that Valve's vice-president of marketing, Doug Lombardi, has disputed this claim, and Valve will appeal the decision. Plus, it restricts their freedom of choosing from among the most suitable offers in the market for purchasing these games. There are no costs involved in sending activation keys from one country to another, and the activation key is all a user needs to activate and play a PC game.

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