Valve and Steam have a practice called geoblocking that ties Steam keys sold to accounts in that country, limiting residents from seeking better deals in neighboring regions. The European Commission is looking into the practice, and an adverse ruling could help normalize prices throughout Europe.
Valve currently has deals with publishers Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home Interactive, Koch Media and ZeniMax to geoblock in certain countries. While people in Australia can usually find cheaper games from U.S. stores, Valve's deal limits the residents from some countries from being smart shoppers.
“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,” the Commission said in a statement.
“We suspect companies are trying to deny these benefits for consumers,” Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said about the lack of choice the current system imposes. “More specifically, we are looking into whether these companies are breaking EU competition rules by unfairly restricting retail prices or by excluding customers from certain offers because of their nationality or location.”
The EU has strived to create a single market for member countries, something the geoblocking hinders, hence the investigation. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. If the deals with the publishers are found to be in violation, Valve and the publishers would need to get the pricing to fall within EU guidelines for either more uniform pricing throughout the EU or at least allowing consumers to shop across neighboring borders for cheaper prices.