Valve will fight European Commission's anti-competition ruling against Steam

(Image credit: SteamDB)

Early this year, the European Commission launched an investigation into six game companies—Valve, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home Interactive, Koch Media, and ZeniMax—over "suspected anti-competitive practices." In April it released a preliminary finding that the practice of geo-blocking games, which restricts the ability of people to buy games based on their home location, violates EU competition rules.

Simplistically put, geo-blocking prevents people in wealthy countries from taking advantage of lower prices in other regions. But the EC's preliminary finding "is that these business practices partitioned markets according to national borders and restricted passive sales to consumers. These business practices ultimately denied European consumers the benefits of the EU's Digital Single Market to shop around for the most attractive offer."

"In a true Digital Single Market, European consumers should have the right to buy and play video games of their choice regardless of where they live in the EU," commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. "Consumers should not be prevented from shopping around between Member States to find the best available deal. Valve and the five PC video game publishers now have the chance to respond to our concerns."

Since then, according to a Reuters report, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home Interactive, Koch Media, and ZeniMax have all agreed to settle the case. The terms of the settlement aren't known, but Reuters said that under EU antitrust rules, companies are given a ten percent reduction in their fines for admitting to wrongdoing. Valve has decided to fight the charges, however, and is now expected to seek a hearing with European Commission competition regulators and "national watchdogs" to argue its case.

If, after Valve presents its defense, the Commission determines that there is still sufficient evidence of an infraction, it can issue an order to halt the offending practices and impose a fine of up to ten percent of the company's "annual worldwide turnover." I've reached out to Valve and the European Commission for comment and will update if I receive a reply.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.