Valve Corporation has been found guilty of breaching European antitrust policies by blocking sales of certain games within the country.
According to a report published by the European Commission earlier today, Valve has been involved in “geo-blocking” practices between 2007 and 2018 where the Steam platform owner purposely restricted cross-border sales of games based on the geographical location of users within the European Economic Area.
Valve has been fined €1.62 million for its geo-blocking practices and which could have been reduced if the company had chosen to cooperate with the European Commission. The Half-Life developer-publisher however chose not to.
Valve was not alone. The European Commission fined five other game publishers as well but they all cooperated for a lesser sum. Bandai Namco and Capcom must pay €0.34 and €0.39 million respectively. ZeniMax Media stands alongside Valve with a nearly similar €1.66 million fine. Koch Media was given a €0.97 million penalty. The biggest offender though was Focus Home Interactive which must pay €2.88 million to the European Commission. That comes to about $3.5 million.
“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,” said vice president Margrethe Vestager, who oversees competition policies. “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.”
Valve sells Steam activation keys for games and which can come with region-locks, meaning that owner of the game key can only activate it in a certain part of Europe and not if they cross into another European state. The European Commission finds this to be a breach of antitrust rules alongside accompanying bilateral licensing and distribution agreements to restrict certain cross-border sales.