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The EU is cracking down on sales practices that disadvantage customers, according to a report by BBC News. Six publishers have been fined €7.8 million (£6.9 million) for restricting cross-border sales, including Valve, Bandai Namco, Capcom, ZeniMax, Focus Home, and Koch Media.

The practice, known as “geo-blocking”, means that games are region-locked, disallowing customers from buying cheaper versions intended for different countries. Some European countries have lower incomes than others, so generally those countries get cheaper prices. The countries in particular that Valve geo-blocked were the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Five of the six are reported to have co-operated with the EU, leading to their fines being reduced, but according to the EU Competition Commission, Valve did no co-operate, and their fine was set at €1.6 million (£1.4 million) with no reduction. Valve plans to appeal the fine, and denies that they refused to co-operate.

Their spokesperson, Doug Lombardi, told the BBC that only 3% of all games using Steam had region locks, and that the EU’s action would potentially cause publishers to “raise prices in less affluent regions” rather than allowing customers to buy games at cheaper prices.

The EU Competition Commissioner condemned the use of geo-blocking in a statement:

“Such practices deprive European consumers of the benefits of the EU digital single market, and of the opportunity to shop around for the most suitable offer in the EU.”

What are your thoughts on this situation? Do you think the EU’s actions will benefit customers, or lead to higher prices in less affluent countries? Let us know in the comments.



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