Brussels (Brussels Morning) The European Commission has fined US game distributor Valve and five publishers 7.8 million euro for violations of antitrust regulations, according to an EC press release issued Wednesday.
Valve and the five publishers in question – Japanese Bandai Namco and Capcom, French Focus Home Interactive, Austrian Koch Media and US ZeniMax Media – imposed restrictions on sales based on geographical location of users. The EC finds this practice known as “geo-blocking” to be in violation of the bloc’s antitrust regulations.
Initially, the five publishers were fined more than six million euro, which was reduced subsequently since they cooperated with the Commission. Valve declined to cooperate was fined more than 1.6 million.
European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager pointed out that more than half EU’s citizens play video games, making the industry in the bloc is worth more than 17 billion euro.
“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,” she stressed.
Vestager noted that geo-blocking and similar practices deprive consumers of the benefits of the EU Digital Single Market.
Details of the transgression
Valve owns the PC game distribution platform Steam, which dominates the market and offers a territory control function to the publishers. This allows them to impose geographical restrictions on activation of games bought outside Steam.
As a consequence, users located outside designated EU member states could not activate some games they had bought.
The EC launched the investigation into agreements between Valve and the five publishers in question on 2 February 2017 and presented them with the Statement of Objections on 5 April 2019.
According to the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and the Agreement on the European Economic Area, agreements between companies may not restrict, prevent or distort competition on the Common Market.