Video-game giants under fire from Europe as UK targets Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox
The European Commission has accused Valve Inc, the owner of gaming platform Steam, and five other video-game publishers of breaking competition rules, while the UK began a probe into the automatic renewal of online gaming deals from Nintendo and Sony's PlayStation.
Contracts that penalise some customers because of where they live are a focus of several EU antitrust probes that have already fined Nike and Guess? for unfairly curbing sales outside of one country.
Britain's Competition and Markets Authority is looking at the annual rollover of contracts, and barriers consumers face to cancelling them.
The investigations form part of a larger push to knock down barriers to online sales. The EU's preliminary view is that Valve, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax prevent consumers from purchasing video-games in one country to play in another, which would be a breach of competition rules, the regulator said.
"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," Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said. "Consumers should not be prevented from shopping around between member states to find the best available deal."
The announcement came after the UK Competition and Markets Authority started a consumer-law investigation of Nintendo, Sony's PlayStation, and Microsoft's Xbox, into their terms for the auto-renewal of subscription products.
"Our investigation will look into whether the biggest online gaming companies are being fair with their customers when they automatically renew their contracts, and whether people can easily cancel or get a refund," Andrea Coscelli, head of the CMA, said. "Should we find that the firms aren't treating people fairly under consumer protection law, we are fully prepared to take action."
The EU claimed Valve and the other five games publishers entered into bilateral agreements to prevent consumers from purchasing and using software acquired somewhere other than their country of residence -- so-called "geo-blocking".
Sunday Indo Business