Child playing a PC video game

PC gaming platform Steam faces £656m compensation lawsuit from UK consumers 

Owner of the digital gaming giant is accused of overcharging 14 million UK consumers and blocking rivals by a leading campaigner for children’s digital rights 

Online video game platform Steam is facing a £656 million collective action claim for overcharging 14 million PC gamers in the UK. 

Steam – developed and owned by Valve Corporation – is a big name in the gaming world and one of the most popular gaming platforms worldwide. In the UK, 93% of 10 to 16-year olds and 60% of adults regularly play video games.

The claim, which has been filed by leading children’s digital rights campaigner Vicki Shotbolt and law firm Milberg London, argues that Valve Corporation has abused its dominant position in the UK market to overcharge millions of UK PC gamers. 

Shotbolt, who is also founder and CEO of Parent Zone, said:

‘Steam is the biggest PC gaming platform in the world and it’s using this power to charge consumers too much for games and content. 

‘Millions of people in the UK regularly game, and many of them are young people, so it’s critical this claim stops Valve from breaking the law. 

‘I am bringing this claim on behalf of 14 million gamers and their parents who have been ripped off and are owed compensation. Valve must play fair and stop this unlawful conduct.’

This latest consumer lawsuit was filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal on behalf of all affected PC gamers.

Child playing a PC video game

What is Steam accused of?

Shotbolt says that Valve, via its PC video game distribution platform Steam, has breached competition law and PC gamers have been charged excessive prices for at least 6 years. 

The lawsuit accuses Valve Corporation of shutting out competition in the PC gaming market by forcing game publishers to sign up to ‘price parity’ obligations that dictate Steam always has the ‘best price’ and prevents the same games being sold at a cheaper price on rival platforms. 

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

‘Valve is rigging the market and taking advantage of UK gamers,’ Shotbolt added.

‘We’ve seen gaming explode in popularity over the recent years – and it plays such an important role in connecting people and building positive life skills, particularly for children and young people. 

‘So it’s not good enough that gaming consumers are being taken advantage of and charged over the odds.’ 

Companies, like Valve, which hold a dominant position in a market have ‘special legal conditions’ placed on them which mean they cannot charge excessive or anti-competitive prices. They also cannot impose other unfair trading conditions that stop others from competing with them.

Have you used Steam or any other online video game platform?

Shotbolt is seeking compensation for everyone who paid for PC video games or add-on content (including subscription payments) in the UK from 5 June 2018. If the claim is won, any affected UK consumer could get back up to £44. 

You don’t have to be a gamer to be able to claim. Parents who have paid for the game for their child may be eligible, for instance. 

Shotbolt has secured funding to cover the costs of the legal claim. This means you won’t have to pay a penny to have your interests represented. All they need to do now is sign up to stay updated as the claim progresses. 

Shotbolt has instructed the law firm Milberg London to represent her in this claim.

Natasha Pearman, a partner and lead competition lawyer at Milberg London said: ‘UK gamers spend billions every year and Valve has a stranglehold on the PC gaming market. 

‘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.’ 

This is the second competition claim for Milberg London in the gaming sector, the first being the £5 billion claim against Sony Playstation for its abuse of dominance.

Valve Corporation was asked to comment.

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