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Australia Takes Valve to Court

Steamnichegamer8-29-14

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced that it is suing Valve over the refund policy on Steam.  The ACCC states that Valve has breached Australian Consumer Law by not issuing refunds for digital game releases.

They go into detail as to why they are doing this on the accc.gov.au website

The ACCC alleges that Valve made false or misleading representations to Australian customers of Steam that:

  • consumers were not entitled to a refund for any games sold by Valve via Steam in any circumstances;
  • Valve had excluded, restricted or modified statutory guarantees and/or warranties that goods would be of acceptable quality;
  • Valve was not under any obligation to repair, replace or provide a refund for a game where the consumer had not contacted and attempted to resolve the problem with the computer game developer; and
  • the statutory consumer guarantees did not apply to games sold by Valve.

The ACCC feels that even though Valve is a company based in america, they have to follow Australian laws if they are to do business in Australia.  ACCC chairman Rod Sims states

“The Australian Consumer Law applies to any business providing goods or services within Australia. Valve may be an American based company with no physical presence in Australia, but it is carrying on business in Australia by selling to Australian consumers, who are protected by the Australian Consumer Law.”

“It is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law for businesses to state that they do not give refunds under any circumstances, including for gifts and during sales. Under the Australian Consumer Law, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their option if a product has a major fault.”

“The consumer guarantees provided under the Australian Consumer Law cannot be excluded, restricted or modified.”

The ACCC went on to state that it is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, disclosure orders, adverse publicity orders, non-party consumer redress, a compliance program order and costs.  The case is set to go to court on October 7th at the Federal court in Sydney.

This isn’t the first time Valve has been brought to court for it’s alleged anti-consumer practices.  Just last year Valve was brought to court by The Federation of German Consumer Organizations on the basis that steam users couldn’t resell games they bought using the service.  The court ended up ruling in Valve’s favor concerning this matter but this seems to be an on-going thing.  Steam has come under a lot of fire in the last year or so, not only from official consumer organizations, but from fans themselves.

Steam isn’t the only target though as anti-consumer practices seem to be a thing that people are getting sick of everywhere in the gaming industry.  On Disc DLC, Season Passes, obtrusive DRM, etc. are everywhere these days and you don’t have to look far to hear somebody complaining about it.  You also don’t have to look that far to hear stories of  developers and publishers getting praises for their decisions to not partake in stuff like DRM, most notably CD Project RED who publically spoke out against DRM even while their game was being pirated by numbers into the millions.  Despite this, customers were so happy that they weren’t being taken out to the woodshed, that the game also sold into the millions.

Probably the best example of actual consumers taking action was the whole issue with online passes.  They required that you activate a code that came with the game to be able to access online features.  The problem with this however, was that if you borrowed the game from a friend of purchased it pre-owned, you would have to pay to receive another code.  EA was the first company to utilize the online pass on a large scale as opposed to isolated projects and major publishers like Ubisoft, Sony, and THQ were soon to follow.  The campaign against this practice was so aggressive that by 2013 the program was basically dead and dropped by every publisher that used it.

Will the recent outcry against Steam accomplish anything?  Who knows, but we will certainly keep you posted as this court case develops.  Also, read up on the consumer rights section of the ACCC website if you want to get a bigger perspective on where they are coming from.

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1 comment
  1. nonscpo
    nonscpo
    August 29, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    I say great these practices are pro consumer and that is good for gamers. Usually Australian ratings/customs aren’t very favorable towards gamers so I say great.