The European Commission has opened a series of investigations into the behaviour of companies including Valve and Asus on allegations of common market violations and price fixing.
In three separate cases, the European Commission's antitrust arm has begun investigating claims that major industry names have been flouting the law - beginning with Asus, which is named alongside Denon & Marantz, Philips, and Pioneer as having been refusing to allow online retailers to set their own pricing for goods including audio equipment and laptops. Valve, meanwhile, is named alongside publishers Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and Zenimax as using geographic restrictions on content to strangle parallel trade within the European Union's Single Market. A final case, of less interest to gamers and electronics enthusiasts, has been opened into the actions of tour operators Thomas Cook, Kuoni, REWE, TUI, and Meliá Hotels with which they are accused of collaborating to discriminate against customers based on their countries of origin or residence to drive up pricing.
'E-commerce should give consumers a wider choice of goods and services, as well as the opportunity to make purchases across borders. The three investigations we have opened today focus on practices where we suspect companies are trying to deny these benefits for consumers,
' said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager of her organisation's investigations. 'The cases concern the consumer electronics, video games and hotel accommodation sectors. 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.
Valve, certainly, could find itself in hot water as a result of the investigation: In 2014, the company introduced new trading rules in Steam
specifically to curb grey-market trading of goods - where games are purchased in one region for a lower price then traded or sold to a higher-priced region. In the EC's words, '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.
Neither Valve, Asus, nor any other company named in the cases has yet issued comment on the matter.