Back in 2014 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission sued Valve for their anti-consumer policy on a lack of refunds for consumers buying digital goods from Steam. At the time Valve argued that they weren’t selling goods in Australia, just leasing software to users, digitally. Well, the courts didn’t like that response – and despite Valve later implementing a refunds option – the courts brought the heavy hammer of justice down across the hats of Valve.
The Brisbane Times does a recap of the event as well as the final judgment. As mentioned in the article…
“The company, based in the US, now faces fines of up to $1.1 million a breach.
“In a significant victory for Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the court found the company was not exempt from Australian consumer law just because it was a foreign online entity.”
The courts claimed that Valve made false and misleading representations to Australians when it came to presenting Steam and the digital products available on the service.
It was kind of scummy of Valve to say that they didn’t operate in Australia so that’s why they couldn’t offer refunds. Later, they changed that stance and began offering refunds.
Due to this change, the courts labeled Valve as having business conduct in Australia, and it’s true… you can buy games from Steam with Australian currency. It seemed like an easy claim to shoot down, and shoot down the courts did.
This outcome against Valve is something that the ACCC believes will affect all companies offering digital goods within the region, even if they don’t operate out of Australia.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims commented about the verdict, saying…
“There’s going to be a lot of companies we can now turn to and say look, be careful what you say about consumer guarantees because you are liable under Australian consumer law,”
According to the article, out of the 125 million users registered on Steam, 2.2 million of them come from Australia. The ACCC basically managed to do what the VZBV couldn’t accomplish and what the FTC hasn’t bothered to investigate. The refunds have been a huge boon for consumers, giving them options to avoid being subject to the whims of poorly designed games for which there is no return.
According to Brisbane Times they mention…
“The ACCC said it was the first time the courts had applied the definition of ‘goods’ to include computer software – in this case, digitally downloaded games.”
I like Valve, I really do, but even them attempting to deny refunds to gamers in Australia (and everywhere else in the world at the time) was plain and simple… a dick move. Thankfully the ACCC did help pressure Valve to implement refunds for Steam subscribers.
They didn’t give a final tally on what the costs will be to Valve, but they will have to pay $1 million for every breach they’re found guilty of having committed.
(Main image courtesy of RandomTBush)