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EU investigating Valve and 5 major publishers for illegal geo-blocking

"In a true Digital Single Market, European consumers should have the right to buy and play video games of their choice regardless of where they live in the EU."

The European Commission is investigating Valve and five other major PC game publishers for allegedly breaching EU competition rules. 

The group is concerned that Valve, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax have all treated consumers unfairly by geo-blocking games to prevent cross-border sales from other EU countries.

While the fact six major companies are under investigation is notable news in itself, if the Commission eventually finds sufficient evidence of infringement, it could fine offending parties up to 10 percent of their annual worldwide turnover. 

As it stands, the Commission claims each company agreed to use region-specific activation keys to deny EU consumers the benefits of the Digital Single Market, which lets them shop around EU member states to find the most attractive offer.

The group's preliminary view is that all six entered into bilateral agreements to prevent consumers from purchasing and using PC video games anywhere but their country of residence, thereby breaching EU antitrust rules. 

"In a true Digital Single Market, European consumers should have the right to buy and play video games of their choice regardless of where they live in the EU," commented Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who's in charge of competition policy. "Consumers should not be prevented from shopping around between Member States to find the best available deal."

Now that the Commission has informed each company about its concerns with a Statement of Objections, all six will have a chance to examine the case, reply in writing, and request an oral hearing to present a defense. 

There's no legal deadline for the Commission to compete its investigations, so the process could last some time, but it's a situation that's well worth keeping an eye on.

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