EU fines Valve, publishers €7.8 million for anticompetitive behavior
posted Saturday Jan 23, 2021 by Scott Ertz
Valve, through its Steam Store, and five major PC game publishers - Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home Interactive, Koch Media, and ZeniMax - have been fined by the European Commission for anticompetitive behavior. The total fine is €7.8 million (or about $9.5 million) and revolves around pricing and game availability within the European Union.
The EU's statement says that the publishers worked with Valve to limit the availability of certain games within specific areas of the European Economic Area (EEA). In particular, the antitrust regulators found that the publishers had agreements with Valve to prevent the activation of games purchased in Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, but activated outside of these countries.
The EU has rules preventing geo-locking of digital goods within the Union, meaning that these rules violated the EU's Digital Single Market. The intention of the Market is to allow citizens of member states to be able to price shop across borders to find the best available price. Essentially, the EU is looking for companies to prevent offering better prices on digital goods to citizens of countries with lower disposable incomes.
As a result of the violation, all of these companies have been fined individually. But, because each company played its own unique roll in the scheme, each has its own amount to pay. Bandai Namco was fined €340,000, Capcom was fined €396,000, and Koch Media was fined €977,000. The other three companies will have to pay significantly more, with ZeniMax being fined €1,664,000, Valve being fined €1,624,000, and Focus Home Interactive loses the game with the biggest fine of €2,888,000.
While the five publishers all cooperated with the regulators' investigation, they have received reduced fines. Valve, on the other hand, did not cooperate, and will be assessed the full amount. It is clear that the EU has put its foot down here, indicating that the fairly standard practice of geo-locking videogames will not be tolerated within its borders.