Well here’s something I didn’t really expect to see. Few years ago European Commission launched an investigation into violation of European Union’s laws by companies like Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home Interactive, Koch Media, Zenimax and of course Valve Software – the owner of Steam. The case is now over (or is it?).
Those companies prevent people from other member countries to buy in stores all over European Union. So for example if the game is cheaper in Lithuania you should be able to purchase it from Germany. But it’s not possible. Which is why I created this website in the first place.
I’ve also personally contacted European Commision back in the day but nothing came out of it – although it wasn’t exactly the same issue. I guess the case is so big rigt now that the Commission has to fight these guys, and they just fined Valve with 1 800 000 euros fine.
Steam doesn’t want to cooperate
After ongoing case Valve Software informed the EU Commission (in 2019) that selling keys bound to specific regions is only around 3% of the codes and none of these came directly from Valve – well we all know Valve doesn’t really produce any games anymore so that’s not surprising at all ;)
Valve also noted that the codes that activate the games on Steam are generated by 3rd party companies for free and they do not derive any financial benefits from selling them. This whole thing got quiet for a bit until… now.
Yesterday the European Commission imposed a fine on Valve, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home Interactive, Koch Media and ZeniMax, with a total value of 7.8 million euros.
The fight isn’t over
Valve itself got a 1.8 million euros fine. The company was the only one that allegedly refused to cooperate with the European Commission. Same as in 2019, Valve quickly appealed the decision, disagreeing with the European Commission’s findings.
A Valve spokesperson told Eurogamer:
“During the seven year investigation, Valve cooperated extensively with the European Commission (“EC”), providing evidence and information as requested. However, Valve declined to admit that it broke the law, as the EC demanded. Valve disagrees with the EC findings and the fine levied against Valve.
“The EC’s charges do not relate to the sale of PC games on Steam – Valve’s PC gaming service. Instead the EC alleges that Valve enabled geo-blocking by providing Steam activation keys and – upon the publishers’ request – locking those keys to particular territories (“region locks”) within the EEA. Such keys allow a customer to activate and play a game on Steam when the user has purchased it from a third-party reseller. Valve provides Steam activation keys free of charge and does not receive any share of the purchase price when a game is sold by third-party resellers (such as a retailer or other online store).
“The region locks only applied to a small number of game titles. Approximately just 3% of all games using Steam (and none of Valve’s own games) at the time were subject to the contested region locks in the EEA. Valve believes that the EC’s extension of liability to a platform provider in these circumstances is not supported by applicable law. Nonetheless, because of the EC’s concerns, Valve actually turned off region locks within the EEA starting in 2015, unless those region locks were necessary for local legal requirements (such as German content laws) or geographic limits on where the Steam partner is licensed to distribute a game. The elimination of region locks may also cause publishers to raise prices in less affluent regions to avoid price arbitrage. There are no costs involved in sending activation keys from one country to another, and the activation key is all a user needs to activate and play a PC game.”
So basically Valve itself officially admitted that the elimination of regional blocks will result in higher game prices in less wealthy EU member states.
Edit: This doesn’t mean it’s a valid statement, just take a look at the comment section below with a quick explanation from rottencat, hope that’s been cleared out now!