Valve & PC gaming publishers fined for restricting cross-border sales. Keys distributed by Steam were systematically region-locked by Valve. This practice had game keys priced differently in Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania, known as low-income nations in the European Union.
EU Competition Commission just fined Valve, Bandai Namco, Focus Home, Capcom, Koch Media, and ZeniMax over their the geo-blocking practices for game distribution across countries. Their guilt? They were preventing cheaper games available in some European countries from being purchased in nations where they were sold for a higher price.
In essence, this goes against European Union’s single market policies, since gamers couldn’t take advantage of better game deals out of their own countries while shopping online. For that reason, those firms were fined a total of €7.8m (nearly 9.5 million US dollars) by the European Union Competition Commission.
Accused of not cooperating with the EUCC while antitrust investigations were being conducted into its geo-blocking practices, Valve was hit the hardest with a fine higher than €1.6m (nearly 2 million US dollars). Valve’s main rebuttal against the fine is that region locks are necessary to prevent high prices in less privileged countries with a lower-income population in comparison to more affluent European regions, such as Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania, known as low-income nations in the European Union.
In short, game keys distributed by Steam, which can also be bought from other online stores, were systematically region-locked by Valve in an agreement with the other publishers involved in this lawsuit.
On their defense, Valve also states that this practice only affected around 3% of the games sold through Steam. EUCC’s stated reason for hitting Valve with a higher fine is also due the firm’s refusal to admit it broke the law.