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The Claim

The claim has been brought against Valve Corporation, the owner and operator of Steam, on behalf of UK consumers. It accuses Valve of charging excessive prices on Steam (its digital distribution platform) and anti-competitive behaviour in the PC gaming market.

The claim alleges that Valve is a dominant player in the PC game market. It is illegal for dominant companies in the UK to abuse their position in a market.

This claim seeks compensation for PC gamers from Valve – we do not want to shut Steam down.

Steam is the largest digital distribution platform for PC games in the world and the claim alleges that Valve has abused this dominant position in the UK.

Companies who that hold a dominant position in a market are not allowed to charge excessive or anti-competitive prices and in the UK they are held to higher standards due to the power of a dominant position. Dominant companies also cannot impose other unfair trading conditions that prevent or hinder others from competing with them.

We believe that Valve Corporation has been operating anti-competitively and, as a result, has reduced competition in the PC game market, including by restricting competitors from successfully entering the gaming space. One result of this behaviour is that consumers are paying too much for PC games and in-game content.

But Steam’s prices appear to be the lowest?

The reason that Steam offers the lowest price at present is a result of the anti-competitive price restrictions that it enforces with game developers and producers (the Price Parity Obligations). This means that it is not possible to list a game on another platform as well as Steam, unless the price on Steam is the same or lower. This applies to games and add on content on all other distribution stores (including online and physical stores) not just those distributed by Steam Keys.

It is also not possible to offer add-on content on other distribution platforms for less or at an earlier date: this limits the ability of rivals to compete on price and enables Valve to charge the consumer higher prices in the absence of competition. We argue that the add-on content is a separate product, and that through the price restrictions and inability to purchase add-on content from another distribution platform or the developer itself Valve has illegally tied these products and limited consumer choice (and pushes consumers to purchase via Steam and pay the commission charge).

In the UK, dominant companies are not allowed to charge excessive prices. The claim argues that Valve’s commission rate of up to 30% is excessive given: competitors lower commission rates; the way the platform operates for the consumer; and the high level of profit that Valve is making absent a viable competitor (which its behaviour directly restricts as developers are not permitted to list games at lower prices on competitor platform). This unfair commission charge is paid for by the consumer.