11th November 2006
This is interesting. The European Commission - which is the executive branch of the European Union - will be setting out to investigate Valve and a number of other market players over allegations of anti-trust practices.
The targets of the investigation are Valve Corporation, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax. According to Margrethe Vestager, the companies may be in violation of competition laws by blocking the activation of purchased products within separate EU states:
The investigation focuses on whether the agreements in question require or have required the use of activation keys for the purpose of geo-blocking. 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.
Also of interest to gamers is that the Commission is also launching an investigation into Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips, and Pioneer over similar practices, where the companies restrict the ability of online retailers to set their own prices on products.