Valve and five other PC game publishers have been fined by the European Commission for partitioning the EEA market in violation of EU antitrust rules. The group of companies was accused of entering into agreements to geo-block prices of about 100 games over the last decade or so, denying European consumers the benefits of the EU's Digital Single Market – and the ability to shop around in member states.
Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax were fined €340,000, €396,000, €2,888,000, €977,000, and €1,664,000, respectively. These firms all got fine reductions in the 10 to 15 per cent range for co-operating with the European Commission in its investigations into breaching the EU's antitrust laws. Valve didn't co-operate though, and was fined €1.6 million.
"More than 50 per cent of all Europeans play video games. The videogame industry in Europe is thriving and it is now worth over €17 billion," said Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy. "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".
The Commission makes note of the specific action of the five PC video game publishers working with Valve to geo-blocked Steam activation keys bought from the eastern and central EEA market countries. It said some keys were restricted to Czechia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – obviously as they were cheaper than those available in Western Europe.
In case you are wondering what the EC/EU will do with the fines, it says that "Any person or company affected by anti-competitive behaviour as described in this case may bring the matter before the courts of the Member States and seek damages". A guide has been made available too.