The European Commission, the official website for the European Union, announced Monday that Valve, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax were collectively fined € 7.8 million, or approximately $9.5 million for breaching antitrust laws prohibiting ‘geo-blocking’ software.
Geo-blocking is the concept that a piece of software can become inaccessible because of a user’s location. Under the European Union’s Digital Single Market ordinance, all members of the EU are legally allowed to any online shop based in any country of the EU without consequence.
The Commission report cites that, “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 article also cites that of the publishers and distributors fined, all were cooperative except Valve. Valve was then fined again for a total of €1.6 million, or $1.9 million.
By knowingly restricting access to software based on a person’s location within the European Union, Valve and the publishers who knowingly geo-blocked the games on Valve’s online game service, Steam, were in violation of EU antitrust laws.
The example the Commission gives is a person in ‘Country B’ who buys a game while in ‘Country A,’ and is then unable to play the game when back in ‘Country B.’ This is illegal for digital items in the European Union as long as both countries are member states.
Any person specifically affected by Valve’s geo-blocking of software is encouraged to bring their case to the courts of any EU Member State. “Even though the Commission has fined the cartel participants concerned, damages may be awarded without being reduced on account of the Commission fine,” the commission wrote in a post.