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European Commission accuses Valve of price fixing, launches investigation

Why it matters to you

Disparate regional pricing is a lingering issue for Steam and the European Commission's investigation may lead to more consistent prices for consumers in the future.

The European Commission launched an investigation targeting Valve’s Steam platform, claiming that multiple gaming publishers worked together to curb cross-border competition with regard to pricing.

As part of its investigation, the European Commission intends to promote a Digital Single Market Strategy that will ensure competitive pricing for digital content across several European nations.

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The European Commission claims that Valve promoted price-fixing geo-blocking practices in collusion with publishers Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home Interactive, Koch Media and ZeniMax. The investigation specifically targets the usage of activation keys, which are required to authenticate and use Steam software upon purchase.

According to the European Commission’s initial report, activation keys also serve as a method to block consumers from purchasing digital Steam content at a discount from other regional storefronts. The Commission alleges that the practice breaches European Union competition rules by reducing cross-border competition.

“E-commerce should give consumers a wider choice of goods and services, as well as the opportunity to make purchases across borders,” said competition policy commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “The three investigations we have opened today focus on practices where we suspect companies are trying to deny these benefits for consumers.”

Vestager continued: “More specifically, we are looking into whether these companies are breaking EU competition rules by unfairly restricting retail prices or by excluding customers from certain offers because of their nationality or location.”

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ZeniMax responded to the European Commission’s accusations in a statement sent to GamesIndustry.biz, noting that it intends to comply with the investigation.

“We understand that this investigation is part of a broader review of the sale of copyright content and goods (including TV, film and e-commerce),” ZeniMax’s statement reads. “We will be cooperating with the Commission to address any concerns and remain committed to ensuring that our consumers can freely purchase and download our games, subject to applicable legal or technical requirements that may apply.”