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?).

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Will GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) affect Steam?

The GDPR regulation is almost here. After May 25th all companies that opearate in European Union are bound to respect the new laws and our privacy. Steam is going to need to get consent from EU individuals to obtain and store personally identifying information (like name, address, phone number, email etc). This should be performed by having a user "opt in" as under the GDPR regulations "consent cannot be assumed". From now on every single company has to communicate in a clear and understandable way why the want our data and what are they going to do with it (or won't do), how they protect it, where do they keep it etc. If you're an EU citizen here are your GDPR rights: Ask what information is held on you and obtain copies of your information Ask if your data has been passed to any other 3rd party or affiliate and obtain their details Right to be forgotten - Request that all (or some) data be removed from their system There is no guarantees that Steam will abide those rules. Most large companies and data controllers like Google or Amazon have only chosen to update their Privacy Policies, which is not…

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#DigitalSingleMarket now in effect!

The new European Union's law guarantees access to the same content for all EU member states. On April 1st 2018 the new law is in effect! From now on all content on digital platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Steam and any other digital service has to be accessible to all countries of the European Union. That's it This is amazing news, something we've all wanted has finally happened after around 10 years of waiting, on the other hand that could mean increased prices (hopefully not) and things like no content of some sort at all in European Union. Unavailable subtitles for movies and shows on Netflix are the things of past! Before the Digital Single Market law you couldn't watch let's say a movie with Polish subtitles while visiting Spain for example (been there, done that) which sucked really hard especially if the things you were watching weren't in English (or other languages that you know). Now let's just wait and see what happens next, are they going to adhere to the new law? Is content going to change severely? Source: European Commission

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New European Union law to forbid geoblocking in early 2018!

The European Commission is putting it's hands on the Internet once again. This time it could be really good for us. The earlier mentioned Steam region blocks case can do more harm than good. Just image how bad it would be for the Eastern European countries if they just generalize the prices to fit all regions. Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and others are going to get higher prices, no doubts here. It really sucks but there's nothing we can do about it. Business is business. Now this case is kind of different! New EU rules will remove geoblocking so the EU customers can use online subscription services, like Netflix, Spotify or even Steam (maybe? some games are regionally restricted due to violence etc.) abroad. It does not mean that Netflix would have to offer the same library of content across all member countries. But if a customer signs up in one country, that same library can be accessed from any other member country. I've been to a couple of European countries in the past few years and Netflix was always driving me crazy, only showing the regional content, including movie/TV show covers (at least it was still in English if I wanted it to…

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The European Commission will examine the legality of regional blocks on Steam

The European Commission is going to take a look at region blocks on Steam. Can we count on non-region blocked games in the future? We all do realize that regionally blocked games are cheaper in certain regions and that's OK I guess but, according to The European Commission, Valve is breaking the laws of fair trade between the European Union's countries. I think I have sent a letter to them around 2012-2013 and even did a petition (like that ever works haha... but at least they've responded and also here) but all of my letters from back in the day were basically ignored saying that Valve can do whatever they can. It seems that now they've got a lot of requests from different countries and finally decided to do something about it which is really good for us. But Steam is not all because companies like Bandai Namco, Capcom or others are also on gunpoint because they enforce those region blocks on Steam. The whole case just started but Valve is obviously going to do something about it, question is are we going to like it or not? I will keep you posted about this issue and post more about it in the future.

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"Free-to-play" misleading advertising in Europe

European Commission meets with devs to improve consumer protections, wants them to stop calling games free if they have in-app purchases. Complaints from consumers who unwittingly purchased in-game upgrades in free-to-play titles have become common enough that the European Commission is taking action on the matter. EC members are meeting with tech companies and national enforcement authorities to go over concerns about consumer protections in the burgeoning market. "Consumers and in particular children need better protection against unexpected costs from in-app purchases," consumer policy commissioner Neven Mimica said in a statement. "National enforcement authorities and the European Commission are discussing with industry how to address this issue which not only causes financial harm to consumers but can also put at stake the credibility of this very promising market. Coming up with concrete solutions as soon as possible will be a win-win for all." The Consumer Protection Cooperation and EC member states have released a list of common positions on the subject, with misleading advertising at the top. "The use of the word 'free' (or similar unequivocal terms) as such, and without any appropriate qualifications, should only be allowed for games which are indeed free in their entirety, or in other…

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EU Commission explains pricing, availability and more

I’ve just received another e-mail with further details about Valve, Steam and pricing in European Union in general. Go ahead and read it. As I mentioned in my previous e-mail, EU competition law generally does not restrict the freedom of companies to unilaterally decide whether and what to sell in which country. There is no EU competition law rule that obliges private companies such as Valve Software to market the same range of products or services in all EU Member States. However, an agreement between any supplier of Valve's products with Valve not to ship to certain Member State may violate competition rules. With regard to vendors selling their products at different prices, I would note that varying prices in different geographical areas may not, per se constitute a competition problem.  Indeed different prices are the rule rather than the exception as the costs of selling, supporting, packaging and delivering will most likely differ from territory to territory.  In addition, other factors such as labour costs and local taxation will probably determine the final price in any geographical location. Furthermore, the application of Article 102 TFEU is predicated upon an undertaking being dominant in a particular market and in this…

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European Commission responds: If Valve decides to offer a product solely within the UK this does generally not amount to an infringement of EU competition rules

I’ve just received a response from the European Commission (it’s weird because I did not send them an e-mail but a physical letter) and you guys are not gonna like it:

Thank you for your e-mail regarding Valve corporation.

We note that, in substance, the concerns you have raised are to do with the availability of software products in the UK only.

Whereas we appreciate that it may be in the interest of consumers in the rest of the European Union to also have access to products of the Steam Store sold in the United Kingdom, how a product is marketed is at the discretion of the vendor. If a vendor decides to offer a product solely within the UK this does generally not amount to an infringement of EU competition rules, in particular of Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

Please be assured that market insight is a valuable input to our daily work that we appreciate.

Here is a link to the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union.

And here is the content of Articles 101 and 102 Mr Banasevic mentioned:

Article 101

1. The following shall be prohibited as incompatible with the internal market: all agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices which may affect trade between Member States and which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the internal market, and in particular those which:

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And now we wait…

The letter to the European Commission has been sent! We have almost reached 1,000 signatures on the petition (it’s around 900 right now). I’ve changed it up a little, added few sentences about the petition and stuff like that. But if you want you can send the same letter just copy paste it from the petition page or change it slightly (we don’t want to make it spam right?) and send it to: European CommissionDirectorate-General for CompetitionFor the attention of the Antitrust Registry1049 Bruxelles/BrusselBELGIQUE/BELGIË We've received the tracking number for the letter and it should reach Brussles sometime next week. Also there's a subdomain for our petition at www.petition.steamunpowered.eu so go ahead and send it over to your friends!

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To all EU citizens: Please help us!

We are about to send a letter to the European Commission. Sending a letter. Why? At the moment I - as a citizen of Poland or for example France, Greece, Germany or any other member country - cannot buy products in the Steam Store in the shop reserved for residents of the United Kingdom (http://www.steampowered.com/?cc=uk) which is against the European Union’s directive. Here it is: Directive 97/7/EC: "Whereas the free movement of goods and services affects not only the business sector but also private individuals; whereas it means that consumers should be able to have access to the goods and services of another Member State on the same terms as the population of that State;" So basically we have the same right to buy and have access to all goods, merchandise and services as any of citizens of any EU country. Unfortunately, the Steam Store effectively takes that right away from us. We need your signatures before we send out an officiall letter to the European Commission’s Head of Unit on November 30th. How can you help? Sign our petition - we will attach the link to petition in our official letter to the Commission. Even if we won't gather enough…

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European Union: Online Dispute Resolution

The European Union is constantly trying to brake all boundaries between states and law but even now, most of the time, consumers don’t want to order things and goods from other EU countries just because they’re afraid of some kind of failure of what they’ve ordered and they simply don’t trust stores abroad when it comes to returns, warranty and other things. However, the new web platform called Online Dispute Resolution is about to be released for entire European Union. The platform should be fully working in less than two years. It’s consultants are going to speak in 23 languages, so both the consumer and entrepreneur, will be served in their native language. This should somewhat calm down people and provide them some sort of psychological comfort to transactions outside their country. The extra-judicial settlement (the whole process does not involve any court of law) of the dispute is not winning and losing, the parties are in contact and above all save a lot of their time and money and try to resolve their issue. Folks in Brussels expects that through this platform, 500 million potential customers will reach for the goods and services outside of their country, and the…

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1 Year Anniversary

I can not believe it was a year ago! It all started with an innocent Steam Store Beta, which introduced the dreadful "conversion" 1€ = 1$. Few days later (despite the many comments on the official forums) they decided to introduce a new currency on Steam. The next day, I’ve created the “Looks like $1 = €1 after all” thread and later decided to create a website with rants about that conversion.

With the new currency introduced some strange coincidence happened, EA Games suddenly put their games in the Steam store.

For me, and many others on the Steam Forums, discussion with any of the "moderators" or Valve employess ended with ban. Then we decided to let publishers and game designers know that their games are overpriced on Steam. We e-mailed every single publisher/developer on Steam and received like 2 responses (from The Witcher makers, Savage 2 makers and some other indie devs). I think the rest of them didn’t even read our message.

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European Commission responds

It seems several people who have sent out complaints as according to the 1€ ≠ 1$ announcement ( click ) have received a reply from the European Commission. Here is a picture of the response: (mirror) The person responding appears to be not understanding the issue. Or is it that we did not understand the issue at the time? We must be reminded that the original issue was 1 euro being 1 dollar, thus the group name "1€ ≠ 1$". Later on it became apparent that Steam UK was way cheaper and that certain European countries did not charge VAT for software, or even use the European currency at all. But let's not forget the other letter mentioning. The person mentions several other arguments that do apply to the matters that I just named. If you read the letter well, you can see that the person says different pricing in European countries is not an "exception", but in in fact "a rule". Here is my reply to this letter trying to clarify the matter, and hopefully get some answers which are helpful: (mirror) I will keep you guys updated with any news on this matter.

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