The short answer is it depends.
Steam does have a refund policy. It reads as follows:
As with most software products, unless required by local law, we do not offer refunds or exchanges on games, DLC or in-game items purchased on our website or through the Steam Client. Please review Section 3 of the Steam Subscriber Agreement for more information.
The section in bold is obviously of interest here, given that Australian consumer law does require that companies offer refunds. Valve also offers this caveat:
An exception is made for games purchased during a pre-order period if the request is received prior to the games' release date.
In practice, it appears that results are mixed. We've heard accounts of Steam users receiving refunds on certain games and we've heard accounts of refunds being refused outright. This morning we asked readers to submit their own experiences with refunds on Steam and the responses were mixed.
Refunds are always provided if the user asks for their money back before the game is released.
In some cases Australians have been given refunds for specific games. Take Left 4 Dead 2, for example, which was heavily censored in Australia. Steam provided refunds for that.
There have, however, been moments when Valve has flat out refused to provide a refund to customers, despite having Australian legislation directly quoted.
Take this customer for example, looking for a refund on some DOTA 2 tickets:
This was the initial response:
When the user responded quoting Australian law the situation did not change.
There was a bit of back and forth on the details, another refusal to pay the refund and then this final response from Valve:
In most cases, when refunds are denied, Valve tends to use the following language:
As with most software products, we do not offer refunds or exchanges for purchases made on our website or through the Steam Client. This includes, but is not limited to, games, Early Access Games, software, gifted or traded purchases, downloadable content, subscriptions, and in-game items/currency.
When a refund was granted -- in almost every case that we've been privy to -- funds were refunded to the Steam wallet, not directly to the user's credit card or paypal account. On many of these occasions the Steam user was informed that this was a one-time-only gesture.
But the reality is this: Steam has been providing refunds for consumers with a specific set of circumstances. According to the responses we received Steam, after some badgering would, more often than not, give consumers the refund they asked for if the product itself was faulty.
Speaking to the ACCC today, we were informed they had no end of legitimate consumer complaints where refunds were not provided. That being said, it appears as though the ACCC's real issue is the way in which Valve allegedly misleads its customers by informing them that refunds will not be provided if the product is faulty.
"It’s the people who don’t call us that are a concern for us," explained Rod Sims, the Chairman of the ACCC, in an interview with Kotaku Australia. "The people who think a refund isn’t available so they don’t even try, because the fact is that Australian law does allow consumers to get refunds."
It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. Valve appears willing to play ball with the ACCC, so we suspect that we'll see a slight change to Steam's terms and conditions in the near future.
Thanks to everyone who sent in their experiences with Valve refunds.