Valve's Court Showdown With The ACCC Delayed Until March 2016

August 2014: the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced that it will be suing Valve. The ACCC believed Valve was operating in breach of Australian consumer law.

Today, over a year later, there has been no resolution. We've confirmed with the ACCC that there won't be a resolution until March 2016 at the earliest.

The ACCC's issues stemmed from Valve's lack of a refund policy. Valve has since corrected this, providing consumers with the right to seek refunds in June 2015, but in August 2014 when the ACCC's application was made, no such policy existed. Back then, according to Valve, it was under no obligation to refund faulty digital goods. Therein lies the issue.

But with the new policy in place is there still an issue? The ACCC has declined to comment -- understandable as the case is still in progress -- but the ACCC is still pursuing legal action against Valve.

The next hearing has now been delayed until March 2016.

This was supposed to be done and dusted by now. Why the delay?

According to the ACCC, Valve essentially called in sick.

According to the ACCC, Valve were set to fly two witnesses over from the US to talk on game company's behalf. But this never transpired because the witnesses were sick. This is the main reason why the case has been delayed.

But these sort of delays are very common, the ACCC claimed. Courts work slowly and it's not unusual for delays like this to occur.

Valve's defence is an interesting one. In a response filed to the Federal Courts Valve claims it was not in breach of Australian Consumer Law. Simply put: Valve has denied it officially does business in Australia.

As per the response:

Valve Corporation does not admit that it carried on business in Australia although it admits that it has made available to Australian Consumers online access to use video games through Steam Client pursuant to the terms of a Steam Subscriber Agreement.

And later:

Valve Corporation denies that it supplied “goods” within the meaning of “consumer goods” in s 2(1) of the Australian Consumer Law. It says that it supplied “online access to video games via a subscription service”. It says that this is a “service” within s 2(1) of the Australian Consumer Law so that the consumer guarantee of acceptable quality in s 54 does not apply.

Valve is also claiming the Steam Subscriber agreement is not a contract to which the Australian Consumer Act applies, because the law of that agreement is the law of the State of Washington. Essentially -- the Steam Subscriber Agreement has not been designed for Australian consumers and is therefore not applicable.

It's a complicated case and the courts will ultimately decide if Valve is/was in breach of Australian Consumer Law. We'll have to wait until March 2016 for the final decision.

We reached out to Valve for comment and will update if we hear back.


    So we pay a subscription fee for games that they jack the price up for to 'sell' in Australia?

    I can see this for games where the only 'gate' is Steam, but games that provide a CD-Key that you can then used to download from uplay/origin/pirate the game and activate etc. Surely would not be subscriptions.

      I've bought plenty of games in store that bear the Steam logo and contain the Steam software.

    Err yeah, as soon as they implement regional detection and don't use it to block a country then its doing business there. When they use it to implement price gouging then that's both doing business and taking the piss

      Exactly, if they don't 'do business' in Australia, and the agreement is with 'Washington' then how do they justify charging us a different price??

      Has Valve forgotten about how they censored L4D2 in order to sell it in Australia specifically?

      I'm pretty sure that they also have agreements with iinet and others to host steam nodes and deliver content locally. That would again imply business and piss-taking.

      Valve does not control prices or dictate regional differences. Steam just enforces whatever it's told to by the developers/publishers and they are free to choose not to use any regional restrictions or price variations if they want.

        Zenith: they have established the ability to divide the market into an Australian segment (to allow publishers to have regional pricing). That means they have designated Australia as different from the USA, so the defence of not doing buisness falls short. If they had no method of detecting Australia for regional pricing (for publishers) then the argument might be valid. As it is it's clearly bullpoops

      This was the first thing I thought of too - if you use region detection to do anything other than block that region from using your service, you've effectively set up a business there.

      There's also the matter that links say "Buy game" not "rent game", "subscribe" or "buy license". It's not immediately obvious to the consumer that you're effectively just paying a once-off subscription fee to Valve in order to play the game, rather than actually buying it. To the consumer, it appears as if they are buying "goods" because unless you dig around the ToS there's nothing to say you're not. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

      Also, they've kind of lost their own argument:

      "All digital goods are delivered via the Steam desktop application."

      The word goods is in there, so their defence is null and void.

    As mentioned above, the fact that Australians (thanks to region detection) often pay more for the same product would mean that they ARE doing business in Australia?

    AC Unity in Australia - $49.95 USD
    AC4 in USA - $39.99 USD
    I'm sure they'll just argue that the content providers (Ubisoft in this case) set the pricing for each region and that Steam is just an access point with no liability.

    Content providers will deny liability, Valve will deny it as well which leaves consumers in a bit of a pickle when attempting to claim legitimate refunds.

      Those are two different products, assume you mean Unity and it was a typo. :p

    How long until they open office in Ireland and decide they're not paying tax anywhere either?

      Pretty sure that loophole is being closed. Pretty much the whole world is not very happy with Ireland about it.

    Ahh, the old "Our servers are here so we're not actually running our business there" defense. When it comes to the new digital tax though you can bet we will be taxed and not given a free pass because they "Don't run a business in Australia."

    Last edited 16/10/15 2:06 pm

    So what about the games sold at retail in Australia where the content of the box is a Steam key and if you're lucky a disc copy of the game that probably needs a few gigs of patches? Why are those available in Australia if Valve doesn't do business here?

      Forgot about that too. Man this court case is gonna be interesting...

    wow, valve are claiming that the steam subscriber agreement does pertain to us? then that means we can legally VPN to our hearts content and then sue valve if they were to ban us for doing so

    Under the tax law a company doesn't have to reside in Australia to have carried on a business in Australia. They collect GST, surely that is admission they do business here and are subject to Australian laws.

      True that. Every time I've bought a game from Steam it says that the price includes VAT (value-added tax aka GST for Australia) for applicable regions, which they are required to pay to the Australian government. If they collect GST but say they don't carry on a business in Australia, Valve is really trying to twist the laws to their favour.

        And failing at it. If the Kokaku comment section can see the bullshit, I'm sure the lawyers for the ACCC can see the mouths spewing it.

    I hope they get a court order compelling them to develop HL3....

    lol they're going down. They are obviously trying to scramble for loopholes, and the ones they are finding really aren't loopholes. "We don't do business in australia" jks right? how stupid do they think the ACCC and the courts are?

    I guess I'm just hallucinating, every time I go through an EB or Big W and see Steam pre-paid cards?
    "Valve has denied it officially does business in Australia."
    about that, maybe they could state they 'no longer' officially do business in australia since the games are all sold out and the only stuff left is merch
    you could also state you no longer go around murdering people, however, that doesn't let you off for all the previous times you've murdered people

    First off...people seem to be confused when they say Valve is selling physical boxes with keys in them etc...Valve aren't. Other retailers such as EB Games are. If EB Games sells a Microsoft game it doesn't mean Microsoft have done business in Australia...It means EB Games has sourced the game and sold it in Australian as an Australian retailer. Retail means they buy it from the supplier and sell it on.

    Also this whole issue with the ACCC is likely why we don't have AUS currency in the steam store. If they did that there would be no denying that they're doing business in Australia. Valve are a big company just like any other. they've managed to hold onto "good guy" status but they're out to get our cash just like any other. They're in it for themselves, not to do good deals for us. Their customer support should have told people that much.

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