The European Commission and the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have separately announced that they are targeting some of the biggest names in gaming over geo-blocking and auto-renewal contracts respectively.
In two coincidental releases, the European Commission and the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have both announced that they are investigating potential illegalities at some of the biggest game companies in the world including Valve, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, though for very different reasons: The EC is concerned over geographic restrictions placed on games sold via Valve's Steam platform and from five game publishers who use said platform; the CMA, meanwhile, is more worried about paid-for subscription services on the Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation, and Microsoft Xbox automatically renewing themselves at the point of expiry.
In the case of the EC, the Commission has sent a statement of objections regarding potential breaches of European Union regulations against artificial 'geo-blocking' - entered into law back in November 2017 and enforced as of the end of last year. The complaint names Valve and its Steam platform and five key publishers - Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax - and claims that the six companies 'entered into bilateral agreements to prevent consumers from purchasing and using PC video games acquired elsewhere than in their country of residence'.
'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,' explains Commissioner Margrethe Vestager of the objections. 'Consumers should not be prevented from shopping around between Member States to find the best available deal. Valve and the five PC video game publishers now have the chance to respond to our concerns.'
The UK's CMA, meanwhile, has sent its own letters to Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft requesting information about how the companies handle their subscription services on their respective console platforms - focusing in particular on the terms of the contract, including the ease of obtaining a refund for a cancelled service and whether proper notification is given that the service will automatically renew at cost when the initial subscription period lapses.
The CMA is also calling on end users to register their own views in order to bolster the case, which has not yet come to a conclusion as to whether the three companies are doing anything wrong.
April 7 2020 | 14:00