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EU fines Steam gaming platform for 'geo-blocking'

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EU fines Steam gaming platform for 'geo-blocking'

Image by Sergey Galyonkin

(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission fined Valve, owner of online PC gaming platform 'Steam', with five publishers Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax EUR 7.8 m Wednesday for breaching antitrust rules.

Valve and the publishers restricted cross-border sales of certain PC video games on the basis of the geographical location of users within the European Economic Area ('EEA'), entering into, the so-called 'geo-blocking' practices.

The Commission found that by bilaterally agreeing to geo-block certain PC video games from outside a specific territory, Valve and each publisher partitioned the EEA market in violation of EU antitrust rules.

The geo-blocking practices prevented consumers from activating and playing PC video games sold by the publishers' distributors either on physical media, such as DVDs, or through downloads.

The EU executive says the business practices denied European consumers the benefits of the EU's Digital Single Market to shop around between Member States to find the most suitable offer.

The Commission has concluded that the illegal practices of Valve and the five publishers partitioned the EEA market in violation of EU antitrust rules.

The five publishers cooperated with the Commission by providing evidence of added value to the investigation, and by expressly acknowledging the facts and the infringements of EU antitrust rules. The Commission therefore granted reductions to the fines depending on the extent of this cooperation ranging from 10% (for Bandai, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax) and 15% (for Capcom).

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "More than 50% of all Europeans play video games. The videogame industry in Europe is thriving and it is now worth over €17 billion. 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."

More information on this case will be available under the case numbers AT.40413; 40414; 40420; 40422; 40424 in the public case register on the Commission's competition website, once confidentiality issues have been dealt with.

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