Jess Colwill, February 3, 2017

Valve Under Fire As European Commission Investigates Region Locks

The European Commission, an executive arm of the European Union, has announced today that it will begin an investigation into the legality of the geo-blocking practices utilised by Valve and other online publishers.

Valve, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax are the publishers named in the press release. The investigation defines geo-blocking as companies “preventing consumers from purchasing digital content, in this case PC video games, because of the consumer's location or country of residence.”

The Commission believes that 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.”

The press release concludes by saying that the Commission is “carrying out this in-depth investigation on its own initiative”.

There is no timeframe given for the conclusion of the investigation, and indeed the Commission notes that “there is no legal deadline for bringing an antitrust investigation to an end”.

This isn’t the first time that Valve have tangled with EU legislators. After being blasted for their “no refunds, ever” policy being illegal in the EU, Valve were forced to change their purchasing requirements to comply with EU legislation in 2015… which just meant adding some fancy legalese that forced EU customers to waive their legal right to a refund at the time of purchase. It will be interesting to see whether or not this case has a similar non-result

Jess Colwill

Jess is a writer and dog-lover from the eastern coast of Australia, who loves playing games (particularly anything by BioWare), listening to metal, baking, and fostering rescue dogs while they wait for new homes. You can find her on Twitter at @notsocryptic.