The ACCC's Case Against Valve Is Going To The High Court

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A couple of years ago, the Federal Court fined Valve $3 million for failing to offer Australian gamers refunds from 2011 to 2014. But the fight is ongoing - and it's set to continue in the High Court.

It's been a while since the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission won their case against Valve. The case, originally filed in August 2014, hinged on Valve's failure to provide refunds for Australian gamers.

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.

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Here's Precisely Why Valve Lost To The ACCC In Federal Court

As reported earlier this week, the Federal Court ruled that Valve was guilty of breaching Australian Consumer Law. The major issue: the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) claimed Valve was misleading Australian consumers by stating they were not entitled to refund when, according to Australian Consumer Law, they were. We've now been given access to the full reasons for the judgement against Valve. We now know precisely why they lost the case.

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But thanks to Jonny Roses, the public affairs and policy lawyer for the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association, it's been revealed that Valve has filed a "special leave application" to the High Court to appeal the ruling and Justice Edelman's $3 million fine.

A list of the appeals and related documents filed for the case, with the most recent appeal filed late on January 19

Observers don't expect Valve to succeed with their appeal, mind you. Justices Dowsett, McKerracher and Moshinsky ruled just before Christmas last year that Justice Edelman had handled the case properly throughout, backing his judgement, deliberation process and the size of the fine. The full judgement can be read on AustLII or the Federal Court website, but here's the snippet:

We note that Valve does not challenge the primary judge’s discussion of the legal principles at [8]-[13] of the Relief Reasons. The challenge is to his Honour’s application of those principles on the facts of the present case. But in our view, no error is shown in his Honour’s approach. His Honour had regard to all the relevant factors and did not take into account matters that were extraneous to the exercise of the penalty discretion. In particular, his Honour properly had regard both to specific and general deterrence.

...

We do not consider that any error has been shown in the primary judge’s approach to the determination of the appropriate penalty, and we do not consider the penalty that he imposed to be manifestly excessive.

As an added bonus, on appeal the judges noted that Valve "appears to have done relatively little to train its support staff about Australian legal requirements".

The original decision ordered that Valve pay a $3 million fine and post a notice on the Steam website and through the client that would be displayed to Australian users. Both of those will be postponed pending the result of the appeal. No date has been set for the hearing.


Comments

    Good grief Valve are being dicks about this.

    You did the wrong thing, you got caught, suck it up, pay the fine, do what you're supposed to and fix your system. It's honestly not that hard.

      Their public image in Australia means less to them then 3 million which is less than AAA Game's marketing expenditure for a single game because they know they're the only real digital platform, Gog.Com isn't competing unfortunately.

      I rarely every buy anything from Steam anymore. If I can get it elsewhere, I will.

        Same for me honestly. I buy most f my digital games from GoG. It's a much better system anyway.

    Bwahahahaha! Edelman is now ON the High Court. This will be rich!

    (although obviously he won't hear the application to review his own judgment).

      No but can you just imagine him sitting in the back, sipping a cup of tea as the arguments are made

    The biggest issue with Valves action in the case to begin with is that the ACCC reached out to Steam to inform them of their compliance issues for over a year. Valve flat out ignored them.

    Their first response to ACCC was the day after they got served court papers to appear in court.

    ACCC is a watchdog, it barks you step away, tell its a good boy and dont make it bark at you again... ignoring it and letting it attack you DUMBEST MISTAKE EVER! And now your sticking your hand back into the cage.

    Seriously Valve pay the money and walk away from the watchdog.

    The most stupid thing about this is Valve changed their systems years ago so that they are now compliant with Australian Consumer Law (and European). They know they were in the wrong otherwise they wouldn't have changed, the whole court case and appeal by Valve is just a farce to try get a smaller fine. Isn't going to work.

      Those changes were done around the time of that case in response to both the ACCC and EU investigations, and would not of existed if it wasnt because of that.

      They have also repeteadly refused to admit in court they were wrong and which is why the ruling went against them. They believe their service was above the law cause they were not technically selling goods.

      They are most assuredly not compliant with Australian consumer law. There's nothing about more than 2 hours of use invalidating the right to return something in Australian law. There's nothing about a 14 day after purchase window in Australian law. The 30 day warranty on steam hardware is in breach of Australian law. There's nothing about VAC bans invalidating the right to a refund under Australian law. There's nothing about companies cutting off your right to a return if they think you're abusing their returns system in Australian law.

      Valve couldn't give a stuff about the fine, it's a drop in the ocean and they're likely spending more than that just on defending the case. What they care about is not having to be bound by Australian consumer law at all, which was always the primary basis of their original defense.

    Can the High Court rule that the fine be increased? $3mil will barely make a dent. I'd probably go with $3bil but at a minimum it would have to be at least $1bil.

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