A Steam resale ban on games contradicts European law, French court rules

20 Sep 2019

The Steam logo. Image: Piter2121/Depositphotos

One of Valve’s key businesses is under threat after a French court ruled its ban on reselling on Steam contradicts European law.

In a ruling that could have major ramifications for digital content in Europe, a French high court has told Valve – the proprietors of the video game marketplace and platform Steam – it can no longer ban account holders from reselling their games in the EU.

According to Polygon, the High Court of Paris made the ruling based on the claim that it contradicts European law. In doing so, it exposes Valve to making substantial changes to its business model and platform as a whole.

The suit was filed by the French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir four years ago after it alleged that Valve’s policy amounted to an anti-consumer practice. In its decision, the French court agreed as EU laws for digital goods prohibit anything that gets in the way of the free movement of goods.

This would include games on Steam, where someone who has purchased a game should be freely allowed to sell on to another person without needing the permission of Valve. A stipulation was added by the court that any resale would be limited to one copy and not duplicates of the same game.

No letting off for Steam

Valve’s defence argued that the EU laws cited by the court were not applicable to it because Steam is a subscription service. But the court dismissed this claim as it found that Steam sold games in perpetuity rather than as part of a monthly subscription deal.

Following the decision, Valve is required to amend its terms of service in the next three months. However, this is likely to be delayed as Valve has said that it will appeal the decision.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the company said: “We disagree with the decision of the Paris Court of First Instance and will appeal it. The decision will have no effect on Steam while the case is on appeal.”

This is not the only EU court case that Valve has found itself in recently as it continues its fight against geoblocking charges, according to Reuters. Since 2017, Valve, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax have been the target of a European Commission antirust investigation.

The EU has alleged that these companies use geoblocking for the sole purpose of preventing someone buying a game for a cheaper price from another member state. While five of the companies have agreed to settle, Valve has decided keep fighting.

The Steam logo. Image: Piter2121/Depositphotos

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic