Sat. Jan 28th, 2023
Steam's white-on-black logo

Valve, the company behind the PC game distribution platform Steam and the upcoming HTC Vive virtual reality headset, has been found guilty of violating Australian consumer law for not offering refunds on Steam.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) filed a lawsuit against Valve in 2014 before enacting its current refund policy, which allows users to get a refund within two weeks of purchase and with less than two hours of play time. The ACCC argued that the lack of refund policy violated consumer law, which states that if a product is defective or of unacceptable quality, consumers are entitled to a refund, repair or replacement.

At the time, Valve disputed that it was officially doing business in Australia, saying it only provided online access to video games through a customer. This, it argued, did not qualify as “goods” under Australian consumer law. The company also argued that the Steam Subscriber Agreement was governed by the law of the state of Washington in the US, not the law of Australia.

The Australian Federal Court, however, disagreed. It found that Valve “engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and made false or misleading statements to Australian consumers”, as well as effectively amending any legal warranties and/or guarantees due to the language used in the Steam Subscriber Agreement.

“The Federal Court’s decision reinforces that overseas-based businesses selling goods and/or services to Australian consumers may be subject to the obligations of Australian Consumer Law, including the Consumer Guarantees,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement. .

“In this case, Valve is a US company operating primarily outside of Australia, but in filing protests with Australian consumers, the Federal Court has found Valve to have engaged in conduct in Australia. This is also the first time courts have considered the extensive definition of ‘goods’ to include ‘computer software’ in the ACL. It will provide more certainty where digital goods are delivered to consumers via online platforms.”

A hearing for aid will be held on April 15, which may include monetary damages.

Although Valve’s Steam platform has been around for over a decade, it wasn’t until June 2015 that the company finally implemented a general refund policy. Previously, the company only offered refunds under extreme circumstances. Consumers welcomed the move, but some developers argued that for shorter games, which can be completed in less than two hours, certain troublemakers could use the refund policy as a free rental service.

By akfire1

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