The EU have fined Valve and five publishers a total of €7.8 million ($12.3 million) over their practice of “geo-blocking” PC game sales on Steam, which basically means forcing users in a country (say, Germany) to only pay the German price for a game, instead of letting them buy a cheaper version of the same game from a different European country.
Geo-blocking breaches EU antitrust rules, and so the five publishers cited — Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax (Bethesda) — were fined around €6.2 million. As the owners and operators of Steam, Valve — who “chose not to cooperate with the Commission” — were fined €1.6 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”, EU competition Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager says. “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”.
If the “Valve chose not to cooperate” thing sounds familiar, that’s because the company was similarly unhelpful when faced with lawsuits in Australia, before the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission forced their hand.