European Commission fines Valve Software 1.8 million euros for regional price blocking

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.”

Higher prices?

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!

Source: Eurogamer, European Commission


3 responses to “European Commission fines Valve Software 1.8 million euros for regional price blocking”

  1. stranded Avatar

    holy shit that’s expensive, let me explain, I haven’t been using Steam for years now, not regularly anyway. haven’t been buying any games directly on Steam either because well I just don’t care anymore, I always look for cheapest option (xbox game pass FTW!)

    now your example shows that Valve still fucks over some nations, why the hell is Estonia thrown into a bin with Belarus? it makes no sense… Valve is just trying to explain itself and will probably do some crazy PR stunt to blame the European Union for higher prices, that’s what I’ve meant with the final sentence in the news

    the point is: we should be able to pay WHEREVER we want as long as it’s European Union and those guys should allow us to pick any market that we want, just like game key sites do

  2. rottencat Avatar

    “Higher prices?
    So basically Valve itself officially admitted that the elimination of regional blocks will result in higher game prices in less wealthy EU member states.”

    Stranded, you are good guy but sorry this is is BS, sorry but I am tired of this WRONG argument that Steam is providing cheaper prices to less wealthy EU member states, as it is simply NOT TRUE. And now steamunpowered is also spreading this Valve LIE.

    Just one example. Max Payne 3 has been sold in Steam to Estonians for the highest price in the World, And with region lock on top since it launch!

    Currently Max Payne costs 29,99€ in Steam (for Estonia), for the restof Europe, the price is 19.99€
    And for the rest of the world, the price goes even lower. You can check you self:

    Also, while Estonians are supposed to pay the highest price in the world for this, we are also getting very weird regional restriction, which does not apply to other EU countries:

    Steam store displays me the following:
    Notice: This product is only for distribution in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldavia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Customers will be able to activate and play this game only in these countries.

    Who does not like my comment, feel free to prove me wrong.
    So far now one has been able to.

    1. rottencat Avatar

      Adding a screenshot, you can see this idiotic restriction and crazy price.

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