The Australian Federal Court Has Fined Valve $3 Million

In a hearing earlier this afternoon, the Federal Court has fined Valve $3 million over breaches of Australian consumer law for their lack of an advertised refund policy on Steam from 2011 to 2014.

In the judgement published online, Justice Edelman ruled that Valve "engaged in conduct which was misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive in contravention" of Australian consumer law when they advertised to consumers that users had no obligation to refunds for games purchased through Steam.

Although Valve introduced a refunds policy on Steam since the case began, the Federal Court found that the breaches of consumer law between 1 January, 2011 and 28 August, 2014, were significant enough to warrant a fine of $3 million.

The fine is to be paid within 30 days. Justice Edelman also ruled that a notice must be displayed to Australian users:

For a period of 12 months after 20 February 2017, for the benefit of Australian Consumers logging onto the Steam Website from a computer with an Australian IP address (based on the IP look up table available to the respondent current as at the consumer’s login), the respondent will publish on the home page of the Steam Website a link, in a typeface of at least 14 point Times New Roman, reading “IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT CONSUMER RIGHTS IN AUSTRALIA”, which directs them to a notice in the terms set out in Annexure A1 (“Consumer Rights Notice”).

The court also found that Valve must "establish and implement an Australian Law Compliance Program to be undertaken by each employee of the respondent or other person involved in the respondent’s business who deals or who may deal with Australian Consumers".


The notice to be displayed to Australian consumers is as follows:

On 24 March 2016, the Federal Court of Australia found that Valve Corporation had engaged in misleading conduct contrary to the Australian Consumer Law in representing to Australian consumers via the Steam Subscriber Agreement and Steam Refund Policy that consumers had no entitlement to a refund in any circumstances and that Valve had excluded, restricted or modified statutory guarantees of acceptable quality. A link to the Federal Court judgment appears here.

When you buy video games from Valve Corporation as a consumer located in Australia, the video games come with guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law that cannot be excluded, including a guarantee that the video games are of acceptable quality. You are entitled to a replacement or refund from the retail supplier of the video games for a major failure and for compensation for any other reasonably foreseeable loss or damage.

You are also entitled to have the video games repaired or replaced by the retail supplier of the video games if the video games fail to be of acceptable quality and the failure does not amount to a major failure. Certain other rights are available directly against manufacturers that cannot be excluded or limited.

The test for acceptable quality is whether a reasonable consumer, fully aware of the state and condition of the video games, would find them:

a. safe, durable and free from defects;

b. acceptable in appearance and finish; and

c. fit for all the purposes for which video games of that kind are commonly supplied. This must take into account the nature and price of the video games, and any statements on packaging or labelling.

Valve has until 20 February next year to appeal the fine and the ruling.


Comments

    Small change.

    Will they enforce the same on Sony etc?

      Have you lodged a complaint?

        So, no?

        Or you have?

        What's going on now?

          No, I don't have a Playstation so I don't have an issue with them. You're the one saying they should go after Sony but haven't even launched a complaint. You want the ACCC to act, you need to get off your ass and make a complaint.

      ACCC does not take action against a company unless they recieve complaints about them.

      Yeah, Sony definitely need to be tested on this.

    Good. It's about time Steam started to be held accountable for some of the rubbish that goes on with it. It's still absurd that we have regional pricing and yet are charged in USD. At least now Valve have to comply with ACL.

      For a second there I thought you were talking about a whole different "ACL".

      Valve has had compliant policies for 2 years now, the fines are for past activities. There's no new news here except for the fine itself.

        There's the notice and the precedent it sets for future ACL breaches, since parts of this case will inevitably get dragged up.

          Right, I just mean in terms of changes to the way Valve operates, that stuff happened a few years ago already.

    I find this amount just *fucking* hilarious. Oh god just so funny lol.

    $3 million would be nothing to them.

      But a lot to the Australian government after seeing how desperate they've been to get every single sent from the public.

      It's possibly the most that they can fine them given the issue

        It's worth noting that $3 million was the amount the ACCC pushed for as well.

          Stalling tactic? Gaben unsure how much they're actually asking for?

          This 3 thing could go on forever!

    Valve is going to appeal this (if they can)... cause the wording nearly contradicts the whole game industry.

    "Free of defects" when was a game bug free?
    "fully aware of the state and condition of the video games" pre-orders are going to be fun with this clause, since the state/condition of the game isn't determined until Day One, may also effect advertising too if you extend that.

    Should possibly remove that inconvenient 4 hours played limit on refunds too?

    Still would of liked ACCC to investigate why we cant purchase in AUD when we are region locked Australia in many purchases and charge Australia Tax in USD due to conversion rates

      The law states that if a product doesn't match advertising or is not fit for purpose or has a fault, it must be fixed, replaced or refunded. Any company that says "sorry, no refunds" is breaking the law. It's okay to only say "No refunds for change of mind" or "No refunds unless required by law" etc, but anytime someone tells you no refunds for something that is clearly faulty, you should go straight to the ACCC.

      I am going to assume that you haven't gone anywhere near the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is steam green light. Having said that I bought a game in a bundle on humble bundle, it was called ASTEROIDS outpost and it was published by Atari. It's base price was 29.99 usd. It was a game that required servers to play on, and when I finished downloading it and starting the game, there were no servers. None. There was no way to start a server or play without them. Without a refund policy I would be up a creek without a paddle. I reported it asap to steam, 6 months later it was still for sale. Still unplayable. I checked again a month ago and it seems to finally and very quietly disappeared. Still think free of defects is a stupid argument?

      Nah. With pre-orders, it's not technically a sale until the day of release and the transaction is processed as such. The money is held in trust by the company until that time. Sadly that was how many Game customers got bent over when they went bust. Because the sale was never actually enacted, they were simply classed as unsecured creditors instead of customers entitled to the product when the company went into administration, and they never saw a cent of the money again. I imagine similar conditions would apply to Steam with pre-orders of games, so it would be like buying the game on the day of release rather than buying it months before without any clue as to the quality of the game.

    You are also entitled to have the video games repaired or replaced by the retail supplier of the video games if the video games fail to be of acceptable quality and the failure does not amount to a major failure.

    You hear that Valve? Repair or replace my digital games!

      Yeah, so much of the wording of the notice is so clunky and inappropriate when it comes to a digital video game... Does a patch from the developer count as a 'repair'? If it does, can Valve just refuse a refund and shift the blame to the developer saying that the product will be 'repaired'?

    3 million is more money than I'll ever see in my life but... it seems a little tame for a big corporation like Valve?

    GABE: AU go F yourself and good luck enforcing this since this is a US business.

    I still want a refund for X Rebirth damnit!

      I got a refund after 1 month of complaining every day and shitting all over the game on steam and literally everywhere I can find including to the lead of Egosoft via email (which he replied to).

    This is my second request for the same game.
    Let’s see how it goes..

    “On Nov 24th I requested a refund on this title:

    “At the 7 hour mark I’ve started running into issues with the game not loading saved games correctly which makes it impossible to continue. The game is out of Early Access so the devs obviously consider it to be finished and not worthy of fixing.

    As this is a major fault and I would not have purchased the game had I known about this, I am entitled to repair, refund or replacement under Australian law. As it appears that the devs consider the game not requiring further repairs, I’m requesting a refund in this instance.”

    You have denied this refund which is in breach of Australian Consumer Law.

    You may want to read the news:

    http://kotaku.com/australian-court-fines-valve-3-million-over-refund-pol-1790435837

    Alternatively you can view the Australian Government website:

    https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees/repair-replace-refund

    I will await the credits to appear in my credit account.”

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