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A new lawsuit was filed earlier this month in the UK that alleges Valve, owner of Steam, has been "overcharging 14 million PC gamers and abusing its dominant position in the UK".

First reported by the BBC, the claim was filed by Vicki Shotbolt, the founder and CEO of Parent Zone. Shotbolt is also on the executive board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and is a trustee for MILA the media literacy and information alliance.

There's even been a dedicated website set up for this lawsuit under steamyouoweus.co.uk, with Shotbolt setting up a company named Vicki Shotbolt Class Representative Limited to bring this action.

From the claim website:

Valve Corporation faces a £656 million collective action claim for overcharging 14 million PC gamers and abusing its dominant position in the UK. Valve owns and operates Steam – the largest digital distribution platform for PC games in the world.

Companies who hold a dominant position in a market are not allowed to charge excessive or anti-competitive prices. They also cannot impose other unfair trading conditions that prevent or hinder others from competing with them.

We believe Valve Corporation has been unfairly shutting out competition for PC games and in-game content, which has meant that UK customers have paid too much for these products.

Vicki Shotbolt, a leading campaigner for children’s digital rights, filed the claim, via Vicki Shotbolt Class Representative Limited, on behalf of all affected gamers at the Competition Appeal Tribunal 5 June 2024.

Vicki accuses Valve Corporation of shutting out competition in the PC gaming market by forcing game publishers to sign up to pricing restrictions that dictate the lowest price games can be sold for on rival platforms.

This has led to UK consumers paying too much for PC games and add-on content, and has enabled the gaming giant to continue charging an excessive commission – of up to 30% – to publishers.

Represented by Milberg London LLP, it's worth noting this is not their first rodeo, as they're also going after Sony for £5 billion.

Natasha Pearman, the partner leading the case, says: “Valve has a had a stranglehold on the PC games market for a long time and with this claim we’re challenging the status quo. Competition law is there to protect consumers and ensure that markets work properly. When they don’t work properly and consumers are harmed, collective actions of this kind provide consumers with a voice and a way of holding big companies, like Valve, to account. We’re delighted to be working with Vicki to seek compensation for UK consumers.”

It boils down to their three main issues that they claim:

  1. Price parity obligation clauses: We say that Valve Corporation imposes price parity clauses that restrict and prevent game developers from offering better prices on PC-games on rival platforms, limiting consumer choice and harming competition.
  2. Tying: We say that the restrictions Valve Corporation imposes, that mean the add-on content for games must also be purchased from Steam, restricts competition in the market.
  3. Excessive pricing: We argue that Valve Corporation has imposed an excessive commission, of up to 30%, charged to publishers, that resulted in inflated prices on its Steam platform.

The first point is one we've heard repeated many times before, but there's never been any proof on it. Which perhaps the Wolfire lawsuit and this may actually bring to light. An accusation doesn't necessarily mean they're right though. Something people get confused on often is Steam Keys, which are completely separate to Steam Store purchases. Valve do ask developers not to "give Steam customers a worse deal than Steam Key purchasers", but again, that's specifically for Steam Keys.

This sounds very similar to the case that Wolfire brought up against Valve in the US.

I've reached out to Valve press for any comments on it. Will update if they reply,

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Misc, Steam, Valve
20 Likes
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57 comments
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Eike Jun 16
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Quoting: benstor214I perfectly understand that Valve Corp. is not my friend. This being clarified:

To me Point 1 and 2 seem to serve as smoke and mirror for point 3 - which may be the actual motivation behind this lawsuit.
I say this because both seem to be very hard to prove if not outright false in my eyes.

How so? Contact some developers, many should be happy to break those alleged rules, someone breaks them, wait if valve reacts.


Last edited by Eike on 16 June 2024 at 4:35 pm UTC
14 Jun 17
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Do we even believe the claim? Would games be less expensive from other publishers? You know what, I don't think so. Steam is like the inventor of the mega slash sales of digitally delivered games, and they happen repeatedly. My average game purchase is much below $40. Many indie games wouldn't even exist because they'd be too much work to get published without Steam. I don't think this suit makes sense.
benstor214 Jun 18
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Quoting: EikeHow so? Contact some developers, many should be happy to break those alleged rules, someone breaks them, wait if valve reacts.
What rules?
LoudTechie Jun 18
Quoting: benstor214
Quoting: EikeHow so? Contact some developers, many should be happy to break those alleged rules, someone breaks them, wait if valve reacts.
What rules?
Alleged rules.
Quoteforcing game publishers to sign up to pricing restrictions that dictate the lowest price games can be sold for on rival platforms.
Quotethe add-on content for games must also be purchased from Steam, restricts competition in the market.
You both question if they even exist.
Ehvis Jun 18
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Quoting: LoudTechie
Quoting: benstor214
Quoting: EikeHow so? Contact some developers, many should be happy to break those alleged rules, someone breaks them, wait if valve reacts.
What rules?
Alleged rules.
Quoteforcing game publishers to sign up to pricing restrictions that dictate the lowest price games can be sold for on rival platforms.
Quotethe add-on content for games must also be purchased from Steam, restricts competition in the market.
You both question if they even exist.

It seems likely that something exists because this chatter has been there for too long. But I've never heard much context. For instance, if the rules say that the freely generated keys can't be used in other stores to undercut prices in the steam store, then I'd say that is a fair rule. That's a far cry from having a rule that states that you can't be more expensive regardless of how it's distributed, then it'd be a major violation of anti-competition rules. My guess is that there is something resembling the first scenario.
benstor214 Jun 18
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Quoting: LoudTechieYou both question if they even exist.
I had to go back and reread the post but I think it's clearer to me now. Thanks

Quoting: EikeHow so? Contact some developers, many should be happy to break those alleged rules, someone breaks them, wait if valve reacts.
This would only serve to prove they exist (which we doubt), not that they don't. As always, it's hard to prove a negative.
Eike Jun 18
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Quoting: benstor214
Quoting: LoudTechieYou both question if they even exist.
I had to go back and reread the post but I think it's clearer to me now. Thanks

Quoting: EikeHow so? Contact some developers, many should be happy to break those alleged rules, someone breaks them, wait if valve reacts.
This would only serve to prove they exist (which we doubt), not that they don't. As always, it's hard to prove a negative.

Right, but nobody needs to prove the negative in such a case, the plaintiff needs to offer prove for their claims.


Last edited by Eike on 18 June 2024 at 6:40 pm UTC
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