Valve Is Trying To Stop People Suing Them Too

Joining the likes of Microsoft, Sony and Electronic Arts, developers and online retailers Valve have announced changes to Steam's subscriber agreement that seek to prohibit users from filing lawsuits against the company.

Saying that they "considered this change very carefully", a Valve statement explains: "It's clear to us that in some situations, class actions have real benefits to customers. In far too many cases however, class actions don't provide any real benefit to users and instead impose unnecessary expense and delay, and are often designed to benefit the class action lawyers who craft and litigate these claims."

"Class actions like these do not benefit us or our communities. We think this new dispute resolution process is faster and better for you and Valve while avoiding unnecessary costs, and that it will therefore benefit the community as a whole."

On the one hand, they have a point! Many class action lawsuits are a waste of everyone's time and a pain in the arse. But what happens if something terrible happens to Steam one day, and there are actually grounds to instigate such a case? As the statement reads, in some situations, class action lawsuits do benefit customers. By removing that option, they're essentially depriving you, as a consumer, of a valid means of protecting your rights and gaining compensation should Valve one day mess something up.

In addition to the attempted block on class-action suits - remember, some American states are questioning the legality of these kind of clauses - Valve is also trying to put a stop to users launching individual lawsuits against the company, instead introducing "a new required process whereby we agree to use arbitration or small claims court to resolve the dispute."

This sucks. Why? You normally can't appeal the findings of a private arbitration hearing, nor is there an independent or public means of reviewing an arbitrator's decisions. Such hearings are also designed to be conducted privately, out of the public eye.

The move ensures that even if Valve screws something up, or something terrible happens to Steam and/or your games collection, any compensation or dispute will be handled on their terms, not those of a court and jury.

Should you actually need to resolve a dispute via such a hearing, "Valve will reimburse your costs of the arbitration for claims under a certain amount". Also, "Reimbursement by Valve is provided regardless of the arbitrator's decision, provided that the arbitrator does not determine the claim to be frivolous or the costs unreasonable."

Updated Steam Subscriber Agreement [Steam]


    I love how luke plunkett is actually dumb enough to not realise this is actually caused by the changes to allow resale of digital games in the EU

      Obviously I'm dumb enough too. Care to elaborate?

      This shouldn't affect customers outside of the US, as far as I know. It was in the US where the supreme court ruled that companies can opt out of class action suits in their contracts/agreements.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    I don't like the idea of having my right to sue taken away. Most of the time the service works perfectly, but we can't always assume that will be the case. Shouldn't I be allowed a legal recourse?
    Valve may be the darling of the industry, but it's still a company, and we can't always assume tehy'll do right by us.

      Am I allowed to sue them for trying to stop me from suing them?

        Interesting idea. I think you have grounds there.

        Like I just said, the law is about interpretation and there does not appear to be anything in that clause saying you can't sue them for not letting you sue them.

          I jest of course, for the lulz, the reality is I have no plans to sue valve- but I question the problem around agreeing to something that is protected under local and national laws that exist outside the united states.
          Consumer protection laws here may make such passages unenforceable.
          I hope a more legally minded individual could do the leg work and clarify this.. ;)

      They do however lose the right to sue you too though, if I read the agreement correctly when I accepted it today.

    Does this apply to Australia?

    And before anyone does a knee jerk reaction and say it does not, please point out the cause in the Australia Consumer Law. I'm not a lawyer so if there is protection please state how.

    The law after all is not about rights - it's about interpretation. I'm even tempted to read the whole Steam EULA tonight as even if we are protected by Clause 7, there is always something else where that can get us.

    And yes, I still know that EULAs are enforceable - even partially they can be enforced. Do not believe the myth, an EULA is a legally recognised document thus can be enforced. Just because a pen is not involved does not mean one can simply ignore it.

      Sorry, Clause 12.

        Here we go: "If the laws of your jurisdiction prohibit the application of some or all of the provisions of this Section notwithstanding Section 11 (Applicable Law/Jurisdiction), such provisions will not apply to you."

        I think that answers my question. It won't fly here and they are saying the Law of Aus applies.

      As Australians we have consumer guarantees as to the fitness of the product for the purpose and other guarantees. These are found in the Competition and Consumer Act(2010) in which the Australian Consumer Law is found as a schedule.

      These guarantees cannot be contracted out of, our rights under that legislation cannot be removed by the EULA. The only way these new additions to EULAs would hurt us if there was some other reason you wanted to sue whoever for a reason other than to do with their products. (Privacy is the only issue that comes to mind).

      Beyond that, I doubt the courts would be willing to enforce a contract which reduces the courts power in society (not that the courts are power hungry or abuse it in anyway but they are very protective of their role in society).

      On the privacy issue, we probably wouldnt have any right to sue anyway, theres bugger all law protecting privacy in Australia.

      (Disclaimer: I am not an expert on this stuff, just maybe more informed than some)

      Tooshay has it pretty well covered - my only addition would be to point out that Australians are far less litigious and more likely to chase these sorts of disputes up through Fare Traiding in their state anyway.

      Most commonly - if you don't get the service you pay for - then you're entitled to at least a partial refund. Most companies who are smart about it go a little bit beyond what is required to quickly and quietly difuse any situation before it becomes a complaint. As long as Valve remembers that for Aussies they'll probably never have an issue

    They should change the terms and conditions so that all disputes will be settled on Judge Judy. Do they still have Judge Judy? It's been too long since I was unemployed...

      They most certainly do, and it's just as brilliant as ever. She gets more and more unreasonable the longer she's on the bench, and less and less tolerant of people who say "like" a lot.

        I used to watch it dreaming of the day when she'd finally snap and send some feral to the chair.

    This is the Steam group I created as a protest because I was forced to agree in order to have access to games I have already purchased and friends that I have made. Please feel free to join the group before Steam shuts it down and my possibly get my account suspended.

    I don't think that this rule would stand anywhere. You have a right to sue if you want, and I'm sure a judge would dismiss the clause in the T&C's. The law stands above a companies rules, even though they'd like to make you think that they don't.

    I'm more worried about the fact that when I click "decline" - I am locked out of my Steam account, and denied access to all of my games. The agreement states that if I don't agree my only choice is to delete my account (effectively losing all my games)...
    This is the sort of bullsh!t the tin hatters have been worried about with Steam from day 1. It's truly worrying to see Valve essentially confirming any fears that if they go under; or decide to strip you of your games for some other reason (such as you not agreeing to a new ToS) then you're essentially @#$%ed.
    Furthermore, as stated in the new agreement itself - we're supposed to get 30 days notice. I don't recall getting any such notice before being locked out of my account.

    Maybe some one sued them for not bringing out episode 3.

    Few points on this. Firstly, some countries such as Australia have laws preventing this from applying.
    Secondly, since they are paying for all costs, its not such a bad deal. Class actions typically pay nothing to the individual, cost a massive amount of money, and almost all goes to lawyers, with a portion to a nominated non profit third party like the EFF.

    Its not such a horrible idea, just needs to be better explained.

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