The European Commission announced on Feb 2nd (local time) that it had conducted an investigation into three instances suspected of being anticompetitive practice in e-commerce.
The investigation concerns geo-blocking practices, where companies prevent consumers from purchasing digital content based on their location or residence. The case was between Valve, owner of the Steam game distribution platform, and five PC video game publishers; Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax.
The Commission said in a statement, “After the purchase of certain PC video games, users need to confirm that their copy of the game is not pirated to be able to play it. This is done with an "activation key" on Valve's game distribution platform, Steam.” and added that “In particular, an "activation key" can grant access to a purchased game only to consumers in a particular EU Member State (for example the Czech Republic or Poland). This may amount to a breach of EU competition rules by reducing cross-border competition as a result of restricting so-called "parallel trade" within the Single Market and preventing consumers from buying cheaper games that may be available in other Member States.”
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy said, "e-commerce should give consumers a wider choice of goods and services, as well as the opportunity to make purchases across borders. The three investigations we have opened today focus on instances where we suspect companies are trying to deny these benefits for consumers. The three surveys are examples of suspected companies that denied these benefits to consumers.” Furthermore, she added that “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."
Meanwhile, ZeniMax Media, among the companies listed above, said in a statement that they will be faithful to the Commission's investigation.