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European Commission fines Valve and five publishers €7.8 m for geo-blocking games

"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,” Margrethe Vestager, European Executive Vice- President said in a statement. (REUTERS)

The Commission found that Valve and the game publishers had restricted cross-border sales of specific video games based on user’s locations inside the European Economic Area.

The European Commission has fined Valve, owner of global gaming platform Steam and five games publishers a total of €7.8 million (or nearly $9.4 million) in fines for illegally geo-blocking games in the European Union.

The Commission found that Valve and the game publishers had restricted cross-border sales of specific video games based on user’s locations inside the European Economic Area (EEA), the Commission said in a statement on Wednesday. It also stated that the fines for the five publishers, worth over EURO 6 million, were ‘reduced’ after they cooperated with the Commission.

The statement went on to say that by ‘bilaterally’ agreeing to geo-block some PC games from outside a specific territory, Valve and the publishers “partitioned the EEA market” in violation of EU antitrust rules.
The statement went on to say that by ‘bilaterally’ agreeing to geo-block some PC games from outside a specific territory, Valve and the publishers “partitioned the EEA market” in violation of EU antitrust rules. (European Commission)

Valve has been fined €1.6 million, while game publishers Focus Home €2.8 million, ZeniMax €1.6 million, Koch Media €9,77,000, Capcom €3,96,000, while Bandai Namco was fined €3,40,000. Fines imposed on companies such as in this case, are pourd into the EU’s general budget, reducing members states contribution to the EU budget for the following year, the Commission stated.

Also read: Amazon fights EU for letting Italy run a parallel antitrust probe

“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. 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,” Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president, stated in the Commission’s press release.

The statement went on to say that by ‘bilaterally’ agreeing to geo-block some PC games from outside a specific territory, Valve and the publishers “partitioned the EEA market” in violation of EU antitrust rules. The geo-blocking concerned around 100 PC video games across genres - including sports and action games and prevented consumers from activating and playing PC video games sold by the publishers’ distributors through physical installation media or digital downloads.

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