Australian Federal Court Finds Valve Guilty Of Misleading Steam Customers

The Federal Court has found Valve, via its online game distribution platform Steam to have "engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to Australian consumers" about the consumer guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law.

Under the Australian Consumer Law, all consumer goods or services come with automatic consumer guarantees that they are of acceptable quality and fit for the purpose for which they were sold.

If they are not, consumers have a right to a remedy, which may include refund, repair or replacement in certain circumstances. These consumer rights cannot be excluded, restricted or modified.

The case was brought forward by the ACCC, with the Federal Court ruling today that Valve made the following false or misleading representations to consumers, in the terms and conditions contained in three versions of its Steam Subscriber Agreement and two versions of its Steam Refund Policy:

  • Consumers were not entitled to a refund for digitally downloaded games purchased from Valve via the Steam website or Steam Client (in any circumstances)
  • Valve had excluded statutory guarantees and/or warranties that goods would be of acceptable quality
  • Valve had restricted or modified statutory guarantees and/or warranties of acceptable quality

Justice Edelman concluded that making each of these representations involved conduct in Australia by Valve and that, in any event, Valve was carrying on business in Australia.

"The Federal Court’s decision reinforces that foreign based businesses selling goods and/or services to Australian consumers can be subject to Australian Consumer Law obligations, including the consumer guarantees," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

"In this case, Valve is a US company operating mainly outside Australia, but, in making representations to Australian consumers, the Federal Court has found that Valve engaged in conduct in Australia,” Mr Sims said. “It is also significant that the Court held that, in any case, based on the facts, Valve was carrying on business in Australia."

"This is also the first time Courts have applied the extended definition of ‘goods’ to include “computer software” in the ACL. It will provide greater certainty where digital goods are supplied to consumers through online platforms," Mr Sims said.

"Consumer issues in the online marketplace are a priority for the ACCC and we will continue to take appropriate enforcement action to hold businesses accountable for breaches of the ACL."

A hearing on relief will be held on a date to be fixed by the Court.

According to the ACCC, Steam has over 125 million users worldwide — with approximately 2.2 million of those users being Australian consumers. In 2015, Valve's revenue was reported at over $3 billion.

Digital gaming sales worldwide grew 8 per cent from 2014 to 2015 and has become a $61 billion industry.

[ACCC]


Comments

    Is this like when they determined we were being ripped off by US tech companies (Apple, Microsoft, Adobe)?

    Can anyone give me the Australian offices of Valve/Steam. I have been trying to get a refund for games and they wont do it. When I ask for their Australian offices to send them a letter demanding I be refunded. they tell me to send it to their lawyers in the USA.

      They don't have an Australian office.

      They have 1 office in the US which fits all 220(ish) of their employees. It's an open office so there is no dedicated staff to anything.

      So they are telling you to send it to the USA because they have nowhere in AUS to recieve it.

      There's an in-Steam option, depending on how long you have had the game and how long you have played it.

    Pretty sure Valve doesn't have offices in Australia, that's the whole point of this video basically? I've gotten refunds from games bought off Steam multiple times, including a game I bought 3 weeks ago and just got a refund for a couple of days ago. If the game was bought earlier than two weeks ago and you have less than a couple of hours played you can get a refund easily, just Google how to get a refund on steam. Otherwise, why the hell would you think you're entitled to a refund?

    Valve is a pretty dodgy operation in some ways. Currency, for example. Would be nice of them to advertise their prices in AUS and not USD. They do it for the UK and so they can certainly do it for us!

    http://store.steampowered.com/?cc=uk

      I'm pretty sure they didn't advertise their prices in aud to argue that they don't operate in Australia. I mean they have NZD (where I live) so why else wouldn't they do AUD?

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