August 29, 2019 / 5:01 PM / 24 days ago

Exclusive: Valve to fight EU antitrust charges, five videogame publishers to settle: sources

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Valve Corp, owner of the world’s largest video game distribution platform “Steam”, plans to fight EU antitrust charges of preventing cross-border trade, unlike five video game publishers which plan to settle the case, people familiar with the matter said.

Valve and video game makers Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and U.S. peer ZeniMax have been the target of a European Commission investigation since 2017.

The EU competition enforcer in April charged the six companies with preventing EU consumers from shopping around for the best video game deals within the 28-country bloc.

It said the companies agreed to use geo-blocking activation keys to prevent consumers in one EU country from buying cheaper versions of a game in another EU country.

The Commission, which wants to scrap cross-border curbs on online trade in the bloc, also charged the five publishers of preventing other distributors from selling video games outside their allocated territories.

Valve is fighting the charge and is likely to ask for a closed-door hearing to argue its case before senior competition officials from the Commission and national watchdogs, the people said.

The five publishers plan to settle the charges, they said. Under EU antitrust rules for settlements, companies admit wrongdoing in return for a 10 percent cut in their fines.

Valve and Focus Home did not respond to requests for comments. Valve in its April statement on the EU charges said the region locks applied to only 3 percent of all games using its Steam platform and that it turned off the locks in Europe in 2015.

The Commission, which can fine companies up to 10 percent of their turnover for breaching EU antitrust rules, declined to comment.

Japanese company Capcom said it could not provide any further comment until the Commission issues a decision. Bandai Namco said: “It is BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe’s company policy to not comment on any ongoing legal matters.”

Washington, D.C.-based ZeniMax and Koch Media had no immediate comment.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Alexandra Hudson

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