The ACCC's List Of Demands For Valve

Last week the ACCC announced it would be taking legal action against Valve as a result of its refund policy, which allegedly goes against Australian Consumer Law. Today Kotaku acquired the application papers for the lawsuit, which include a list of the ACCC's demands should its legal action against Valve be successful.

The ACCC is asking that Valve:

• Provide an email address that specifically deals with refunds as per Australian Consumer law. • Provide a 1800 number to help consumers address any refund issues. • Provide a PO Box address for consumers to deal with refunds. • Appoint representatives (the ACCC refer to this person as a contact officer) to reply to consumers regarding refunds.

If the ACCC is successful, Valve will have to implement these changes within 30 days of the court order.

The ACCC is asking that, through these new avenues, each consumer be addressed and dealt with in accordance to their statutory rights as per Australian Consumer Law.

Interestingly, the ACCC wants Valve to appoint an independent auditor to review its consumer redress policy within 180 days of any potential court order. This person cannot be an employee or have any interests in Valve. This person cannot have been involved in the creator of the consumer redress policy. This independent auditor will then have to send a report to the ACCC informing them of how many consumers attempted to get a refund and how many were successful or unsuccessful and the reasons why.

In a separate statement, Valve has already informed us that it plans to co-operate on the issue. "We are making every effort to cooperate with the Australian officials on this matter," said Doug Lombardi. So it appears possible the ACCC will get what it wants in this case.

The Statement of Claim provides a fair amount of insight into the ACCC's reasons for taking legal action against Valve, and focuses its case on three separate interactions between consumers and Valve. The first surrounded a consumer's purchase of five games (Dear Esther, NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits, Plants vs. Zombies, Anna and 30 Flights of Loving) all of which were unplayable. After three months of back-and-forth contact, the consumer was told that Valve was "unable to assist [the person] further with this issue". This is consistent with the experience of Kotaku Australia readers dealing with similar issues.

A second consumer named had a similar situation with Legends of Dawn, and was told that the Australian Consumer Law he was citing did not apply to "digital distributions, electronic games, or downloadable content" which, according to the ACCC, is false.

A third person managed to get a refund for X-Rebirth after a three week period of back-and-forth, but was told this was a "one time exception to Valve's policy. "Please note in the future," the consumer was told, "that Steam Purchases, per the Steam Subscriber Agreement, are not refundable."

First directions is set for September 16 at the Federal Court of Australia.


Comments

    Well, that all seems pretty rational and reasonable.

      Australian refund laws are, they should have been doing this to begin with, but like a lot of web based stores, they don't change until someone tells them to.

        I'm not defending Valve, but why do they need a PO Box and a 1800 number? The ACCC are basically saying: you need a call centre specifically for Australians. Do they have any idea how much that costs? Stone age regulator with stone age demands. If you can use steam, you can use email. They just need better staff training.

        And Australian Consumer Laws are not that rational. For a business, applying them is a veritable cluster f**k. They were drafted with the assumption that every retailer is Myer, David Jones, JB Hi Fi or Harvey Norman, with a store where you can walk in, talk to a shop assistant, and figure it all out. If you're an online retailer, it's a whole different story.

          PO Box so that people that no longer have access to a phone or internet are able to send in complaint (someone in the outback or situated somewhere that doesn't have easy access).

          1800 Number so that people are able to discuss issues with someone and receive instructions or has difficulty with writing through some sort of impediment such as dyslexia.

          As for how costly it would be, not that much, the ACCC aren't demanding that the number be serviced within Australia which would require tremendous costs. Valve would be able to setup the 1800 number here that would just re-direct to any other call centre they already have setup. Once the scripting is given to the agents there wouldn't be any other great costs involved.

          The ACCC are just making sure that everyone is able to have their complaints heard no matter how they need to communicate either through ease or necessity because, yes, it is harder to deal with a company that only has an online presence. Your assumption is that everyone has good, reliable and constant access digitally, this isnt the case.

            Then how do they use Steam without good, reliable, constant access digitally? And I beg to differ on your understanding of costs of setting up a call centre, even in the Philippines or some other cheap, English speaking country. Who's going to do the scripting, the training, the monitoring, and the managing? These people aren't paid the 'peanuts' we all think too - it's one of the highest paid jobs a person can get in one of those countries. I know, I've been setting one up for the last 6 months.

      I hope the ACCC can also crack down on the stuff Games Workshop is currently trying to pull in Australia

        It's been a while since I've dealt with them, would you mind explaining what they're doing?

          They are attempting to tighten their grip on the local retailers and trying to get rid of online only sellers among many other things.
          It's interesting reading the legal paperwork and seeing the the way GW sees themselves...

          You can look up the submission on the ACCC website

            Thanks for letting me know! I was thinking of getting back into the hobby, but maybe not after hearing that.

    Maybe everyone will hold hands and dance in a circle? Err, Slightly worried our domestic market isn't worth valves time and they pack up and leave although I guess there's some agreement regarding paid-for-games if they should choose to do so?! Its doubtful but can they just flick the switch?

      There's no way that happens. No way.

        It'd certainly be an excellent way to tack a few million onto any piracy figures you cared to talk about.
        (Edit: Not to mention the fact that we pay about double what anyone else does, so, y'know... double that few million while you're at it.)

        Last edited 04/09/14 2:42 pm

      Why would Valve throw away money? Even if 50% of people sought refunds they are still going to be making shit loads of money from Australians.

      I didn't think Valve had an Australian presence though so I'm not sure how the ACCC can tell them what to do.

        Especially when they tack on $40 onto the US retail price to match Australian retail, all of which is pure profit to publishers. We're worth quite a bit for letting them gouge us.

        Doesn't matter, if a business supplies to Australian consumers, they're meant to follow our law.

        I'm sure there's some standard to determine that. Merely shipping to an Australian address probably wouldn't be enough.

        I do find the whole, 'but valve would just leave' to be a silly argument. Video games are big business, and to be fair the laws around refunds are not very broad.

          Downloading bits of an overseas server and buying goods from an overseas supplier. I don't see how either can be coerced by the ACC when they are both supplying to AU customers though.

            Do we download from overseas servers? I thought we downloaded from local servers. Hence the fast speeds.

            Anyway Steam directly is geared for selling to people in Australia. Games sold on Australian shelves require steam. Prices on steam while in USD are different for people in Australia. They censor games for Australia, they display our ratings. They directly deal specifically at selling to Australians.

            It's not like buying a key off some Russian gaming website.

              There are steam servers in almost every Australian state. Go into the Steam settings, and you can set a preferred location to download from. Most states are in there.

          I'm also pretty sure I read somewhere that Australians were some of Valve's best customers.

            You would be correct, Aussies spend a lot more.. (I assume though that includes the Aussie tax)

            However, we are a goldmine for a lot of business'

            But I'll laugh till I die about Starbucks trying so hard to crack the Australian coffee market worth some 4 billion dollars and is shrinking as day by day goes on. Why? Aussies are fussy with our coffee. Hah. So.. Australia is a lovely place to be I think <3

        Our consumer law applies to trade & commerce within Australia, and between Australia and places outside Australia (per definitions in section 4 of the Act).
        Valve sells to Australian consumers, and if you want to do that you have to comply with Australian consumer law, even if your business is located outside Australia.

      This really isn't a business model they are just scraping by on.

      Would be good news of they pull out of region specific. US pricing!

      Last edited 04/09/14 3:12 pm

      Have no fear, our market is worth this extremely minor set back in Valves profits.

    ...is that a TF Classic character in the bottom right of the image?

      Yes.

      Fairly sure it's from the Meet the Spy short.

      I believe it's the character from the initial design of the second Team Fortress. http://www.tfportal.de/image.php?img=./gfx/screenshots/tf2_old/53.jpg

      ....yes, yes it is. Looks like they've grabbed a shopped screencap from Meet the Spy (it's supposed to just be pictures of the Red Spy getting off with Scout's mother).

    Demanding a PO box seems a bit archaic when dealing with a digital distributor with no au office. A 1800 number too.
    Tis a company and service that operates purely via the internet, in au anyway. If you can buy a game on steam you can send a email or create a support ticket.
    Perhaps have a live chat service instead.

      Just set up a forwarding address and VOIP the 1800 number to someone at Valve. Companies around the world do this. You don't talk to someone in AU when you call Telstra for example.

        Often times, you also don't talk to someone competent when you call Telstra...

          Can't imagine Valve outsourcing to India.

            You never know, someone there might make half life 3...

            The worst part is that I don't even want it, I just want it to come out so people will shut up about it not being out.

          its not just telstra. I work for an IT manufacturer tech support, and I have to deal with calls coming in from Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Virgin and the like, and most of the time it seems to be that they try and palm the blame off to my employers devices. Funniest thing is when the issue I get has something to do with an ISP's own webmail service

      Sure, but they are probably a lot cheaper than the cost of employing someone to handle Australian refunds and customer support.

      That said, these should be fairly minor expenses compared to the amount of money they bring in from sales to Australians. If it wasn't, they would be talking about packing up shop rather than complying.

        If you believe one word of the bullshit that comes out of publishers/distributors' mouths about why Australians pay practically double for digital distribution, they'd have you believe it's thanks to the cost of having a presence here.

        Probably about time they actually HAD a presence here to back up that bullshit justification.

          Ideally a creative presence to actually develop stuff rather than just a one room office and a single employee to satisfy a regulatory requirement and justify the price hike

      Presumably if they'd had a purely online solution that addressed consumer law they wouldn't be demanding those things. Seems much more of a "You've been bad, so now you do this by the book."

      I'd guess that those options are also in part designed to prevent email ping pong dissuading consumers of following up on their rights as valve have been shown to do in the past.

    Also, I can see someone in the future claiming that the need to maintain these support systems, just for au, is justification for the Australia tax.

      Adobe has already played that card.

        Was that before or after they just said "Fuck you, that's why!"

    Valve is such a beloved company, but it really does suffer from some hardcore fanboy-ism that borders on irrational at times.

    Everyone has a go at Origin, but Origin has a returns policy.

    Everyone talks about how EA and Ubisoft are greedy etc, but we all seem to forget that Valve make a killing off Community item transaction fees. They are not as good and wholesome as we all like to think (Praise Lord Gaben etc).

    I sold off a stack of Dota2, TF2 and inventory items a little while ago and its mind boggling just how much money Valve are making off shit that doesn't exist (trading cards for badge crafting).

    It's cunning. Valve basically creates inventory items, which have no real world value, no logistical cost, and you collect these to make a badge, to collect, to show-off. Only some people cbf playing games to get these drops and prefer to jump on the community and buy them. I sell ALL inventory dropped items, usually $0.05 - $0.10. Every time a transaction takes place, Valve takes a cut.

    What's more, there is no loss in value for them. You could sell a TF2 hat to someone for $1, then a month later they sell it to someone else for $1.50, or $0.90 or whatever, it gets resold, and resold, and resold. Every time Valve is there, taking cut. Add to the fact that a lot of 'hats' and items (Dota2 for example) are created by the Community and they're basically printing money.

    Did I mention it's a closed market? That's right, you can sell your inventory items, and hats, etc, but that just goes to your Steam Wallet, you can never really 'cash out'. So you use your Steam Wallet earnings to buy more games, get more inventory drops, sell them, and the cycle continues...

    Anyway, glad to see they are not going to BS the ACCC like they sometimes do to loyal fans (see: http://www.reddit.com/r/pcmasterrace/) and gamers.

    Last edited 04/09/14 2:35 pm

      Honestly, I'm not even mad, I'm impressed.

    Conclusion: ACCC requesting reasonable laws to be followed that companies are required to do so in order to do business in Australia. Valve will most likely comply with these laws 100% and everybody will go about their business as per usual.

    All steam need to do is add the following to to the T&Cs

    All parties agree that the transaction is conducted within jurisdiction of "Not Australia". The purchaser certifies that they are not a resident of the following counties (Australia).

      This isn't America, T&Cs don't override Consumer Law

      Maybe when I'm using my VPN and try to buy things I should click that "I live in America" button then...to let them bypass our laws.
      Civilization Beyond Earth seems to be cheaper that way :/

    I really do hope that Valve fix up their policy, because of games like WarZ and Air Control getting on steam, it would be nice to be able to get a refund when you buy stuff like that.

    Last edited 04/09/14 10:44 pm

    I remember having to go through the one month back and forth fight with Valve support to get a refund on "From Dust" after Ubisoft lied about how DRM would work with the game. Eventually got the "we will refund you this one time only contrary to our policy line". It's about time Valve had the book thrown at them over shoddy warranty support.

    You should try playing with some of the other boys for fixes etc. - good luck

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