Valve amongst companies fined for geo-blocking Steam keys

Valve amongst companies fined for geo-blocking Steam keys


Valve and a handful of game publishers have landed themselves in hot water with the European Commision for geo-blocking Steam keys in certain regions in Europe. The Steam owners, along with Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax (Bethesda’s parent company), have been collectively fined €7.8 million (around £6.9 million) for “breaching EU antitrust rules”.

“Valve and the publishers restricted cross-border sales of certain PC video games on the basis of the geographical location of users within the European Economic Area (‘EEA’), entering into the so called ‘geo-blocking’ practices,” the European Commission said.

An investigation into Valve and the five publishers found that between 2010 and 2015 they had agreements to geo-block certain Steam keys, preventing them from being activated outside of Czechia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Geo-blocking is usually done so games can be sold cheaper in low-income countries. However, people in higher-income countries have often found ways in the past to bypass regional pricing. Obviously, publishers aren’t a fan of this, because it means those people nab the lower prices.

Valve didn’t cooperate with the investigations, and have been fined €1,624,000 (around £1.4 million). The publishers did cooperate however, and had their fines slightly reduced. Even still, SnowRunner and Greedfall publisher Focus Home managed to rack up a fine of €2,888,000 (about £2.6 million).

A breakdown of the fines.

“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,” the Commission’s executive vice-president, Margrethe Vestage, said.

“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.”

This is naughty because the European Union’s Digital Single Market is designed so that everyone who lives in the EU should be able to buy and use things from all other EU countries.

This may not be the end of it either, as the Commission say “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.”

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