Aussie Steam Users Are Getting A Consumer Rights Notice

Image: Valve

When Valve was fined $3 million a couple of years ago, one of the court orders was that a notice was to be visible to all Australian users. And with the High Court rejecting Valve's appeal recently, that notice is now posted online and through the Steam client.

Over the last couple of days, Valve has begun displaying a "Australian Consumer Rights Notice" to Aussie Steam users. The notice contains a link to Justice Edelman's ruling against Valve, which found that the US-based company had violated Australian consumer law by "representing to Australian consumers via the Steam Subscriber Agreement and Steam Refund Policy that consumers had no entitlement to a refund in any circumstances".

Valve's Appeal Against $3 Million Fine Dismissed By High Court

Valve's ongoing lawsuit with the ACCC is coming to an end, after the High Court of Australia dismissed the company's special leave application to appeal their $3 million fine.

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The lawsuit centred on representations Steam made to users between 2011 and 2014. The full notice, which Australian users can see through the Steam client or the Steam site directly, is below:

More information about the original ruling, and how the case unfolded, can be found below.

The ACCC On Valve's Refund Policy: "We Had To Take It To Court"

This morning the ACCC announced it would be taking Valve to court over its current refund policy. Today we spoke to ACCC Chairman Rod Sims and Regional Director Sam Di Scerni about the issue and some of the reasoning behind today's statement.

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ACCC Asks Court To Fine Valve $3 Million

$3 million. that's how much the Australian competition regulator wants Valve to pay over their lack of an advertised refund policy from 2011 to 2014.

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Comments

    I bet they'll still keep their horrible refund policies.

      Steam has one of the best refund policies out of any platform now, so not quite sure what you're talking about.

        No it doesn't. They have a very limited number of situations they will refund, they also have criteria which deny refunds which are not based on your consumer rights.

          I mean its pretty fucking reasonable honestly. 14 days or under 2 hours of play time and you can refund for any reason at all. I have refunded around 6 games, 3 of them were due to them being buggy as shit, 2 were due to them not being fun and 1 was for fps issues. "They have a very limited number of situations they will refund." There is literally an option to refund the game for not being fun.

            It is not dense to know your consumer rights and when they are being breached.

            It's 2 hours of the program being open, which is different from playtime or the entirety of the game working without issue for 2 hours.

            A refund after 14 days is also not reasonable. The notion it's acceptable to not get a refund on a broken game because you took more than a couple weeks to open the game is plainly absurd.

              A refund after 14 days is also not reasonable. The notion it's acceptable to not get a refund on a broken game because you took more than a couple weeks to open the game is plainly absurd.
              Although 14 days is short, the general minimum is 30 days, all warranties are from date of purchase. If you take 6 weeks before you play it that's your problem. That's how warranties have always worked in this country.

                Warranties offered by the seller are different than your consumer rights. You're not actually entitled to return a product if you change your mind under the consumer law. Consumer rights do enforce warranties though.

                The issue is that steam use their 14 day / 2 hours rule to deny refunds in circumstances when you're entitled to a refund under the consumer law. Such as a program not working as intended, having bugs, flaws or any other major issue. It doesn't matter if you discover that problem on day 1. Or 6 months after purchase.

                  exactly. under australian law, for the natural life of a product (So, no you probably cant return that old DOS game that wont install on your Win 10 box. In physical products this is more about wear and tear vs faults. So a battery that reaches the end of its life isnt refundable, but one that lights on fire a week after you buy it is definately refundable) the product must function acceptably, and as advertized. So if steam pushes an update that bricks the game, and you cant obtain a downgrade to a version that still runs (and connects to network games in the case of them), then steam insisting on 2 hrs/14 days is irrelevant, your entitled to a refund.

                  This , by the way, absolutely terrifies companies that render games unplayable by decomissioning login servers, becuase that aint "the natural life" of the software. its a company deciding its customers arent allowed to have the product they paid for anymore.

                  Last edited 15/05/18 6:13 am

      You're crazy, they fixed all the problems years ago. It's very easy to get a refund or even abuse their policy.

        you must no know Australian law, must be able to get a refund or the same item(working this time) if the item is faulty. and thats what there complaining about.

          While most people don't know their rights. The way people discuss them in relation to online gaming shops, really shows how much they as consumers have been abused for years.

          A very limited refund system, as opposed to none is apparently them getting their full rights.

          The steam system is really badly flawed and while better than it used to be. It's still not acceptable. If your issue isn't in their limited dropdown list of requirements, it is denied. It can be in that list but they set arbitrary measures to deny them.

          Why is a refund denied after 14 days, even if you haven't played the game?

          You can easily have had a game open for more than 2 hours and have it not working properly. The time an app is open is different from if it's works, or even if you're playing it. You can easily blow through that troubleshooting.

          We also live in a day and age when a lot of games release needing patches and new drivers. Understeam, waiting for the dev to release a fix can then void your refund.

          The explanations for both of these are really thin. Even if they have the automated system to make things easier. From my experience and those of friends. Steam never replies to or addresses any explanation of why you want a refund. They just deny.

          They also don't offer refunds on in-game purchases, despite being the storefront.

            Have you actually comprehensively used steam’s refund system?
            The criteria you keep mentioning (2 hours playtime, 14 days from purchase, etc.) aren’t the bottom line for refunds. They are simply a list of criteria that, if met, guarantee a refund. If you explicitly detail your issues with a game, they will be read. I’m not entirely sure how the automation in their system works but I’ve refunded multiple games with much more hours invested in them, much longer after the purchase date. If there is a genuine reason, they will give you your money back. The 2 hours / 14 days seems to me to be merely a buffer to more easily filter out absurdities such as people refunding games after they finish them and the like.

              I tried to refund a game a few months back. It was only a few days after purchase and I had a few hours in it. It was primarily a multiplayer game and it never worked properly. Connections to local matches were extremely laggy, the game was constantly freezing and stuttering. I tried a bunch of fixes and guides and could never get it in an acceptable or playable state. My PC more than met the requirements, drivers up to date with good internet. So after a couple of days of trying to play with much frustration I requested a refund.

              I went through the refund process and it kept coming back rejected due to having had the game open more than two hours. I tried a few times for the refund and it always came back a day or so later with the exact same rejection.

              I had taken time to write out my issues, mention other people online with the issues and what I had done to try and fix them as part of an explanation for why I had 6 hours in the game. At one point I even wrote a section detailing why I believed I was entitled to a refund with reference to the consumer law. I wrote complaints about the automated rejection. I only ever got the same response. I would have accepted a response declining it that responding to my request. Clearly no one was on the other end reading what I wrote. Or they didn't care. It became a bit of a joke after a few times and I kept applying to see if I'd ever get a response.

              You can discuss the merits of my refund, but clearly their system was not examining anything beyond the play time. Multiple requests for a refund didn't flag their system to have someone actually read my request where they could respond.

              I eventually gave up and got bored of doing it. It's not a big deal for me. However for others a $90 purchase is a big deal and if it doesn't work properly. They shouldn't be screwed over.

          The issue here is what the definition of 'faulty' actually entails, and something that the courts are going to have to figure out.

          The reason is thus: under ACL you're not automatically entitled for a refund just because of any fault in the product. If there's a minor fault, and the good is repaired in a timely fashion that restores it to intended working order, then you have to take that repair, you don't get to choose the refund. If it's a major fault you get to choose. The question is whether a gameplay bug (e.g. the main quest breaks at 10 hours in) is a 'major fault' if the developer can easily fix it and release a patch within, say, a few days. That's a very easily fixed 'fault' even if it stops progress on the game. It seems that if ACL was applied such that games shouldn't get patches then it'd be manifestly unfair for modern complex software to be expected to be totally bug free.

          The other issue is that ACL doesn't support you if you just plain don't like or enjoy a product, so people going "I played this and the gameplay is SHIT because the guns don't do enough damage I WANT MY REFUND" aren't protected under ACL. Similarly the whole 'false advertising' thing probably wouldn't be satisfied by developer interviews claiming something was intended for the game months prior to release.

          ACL isn't an insta-win, "customer is always right" protection, and it shouldn't be treated as such. Steam giving no questions asked 2 hour refunds is actually in excess of ACL unless the user can demonstrate a major fault or a minor fault that isn't fixed, or satisfies the other conditions under ACL. "I don't like this game because it's shit" isn't a part of ACL and never will be.

          I know all my rights quite well, I've just never had to get a refund for anything on Steam.

          Rest assured all hell would break loose if Valve or any business tried to deny me a well deserved refund.

        Offering some limited situations where they refund, as opposed to essentially none is not fixing the problem. It is also very far from giving you your consumer rights.

      I personally prefer to use steam BECAUSE of their refund policy. It's great to boot up a game, sink some time, realise that it's not for me and get my money back.

      The only issue after they bought the new refund pokicy is how they test if your valid for a refund... which is mainly the 4 hour rule. If the game breaks afyer that your still entitled to a resolution.

        It's only 2 hours. It's also 2 hours of the game being open. Not gameplay, progress or anything.

        You can easily blow through two hours of the game open troubleshooting, adjusting settings, minimising to find guides online, seeing how it plays, discovering problems. Waiting/hoping there is a patch or new drivers. Let alone a game that has an issue which isn't immediately apparent.

        Games also have different modes, tutorials, benchmarks, story modes and multiplayer. Say story mode works but multiplayer doesn't?

    Umm... well, turns out that it is indeed there, although the odds of anyone actually seeing it are going to be virtually nill.

    On my screen at the moment turns out that the notice is on the ninth Page Down, below the splash banner, FEATURED & RECOMMENDED, SPECIAL OFFERS, TRENDING AMONG FRIENDS, YOUR DISCOVERY QUEUE, BROWSE STEAM, CURATOR RECOMMENDATION, MORE CURATOR RECOMMENDATIONS, RECENTLY UPDATED, New and Trending, UNDER $10 USD, UPDATES AND OFFERS, and... oh, here it is.

    Valve trying much?

      lol on my client it's like 90% the way down and a one liner that says

      IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT CONSUMER RIGHTS IN AUSTRALIA - click here for details

      there's like a near zero chance any Australians will ever see the notice

        I'm on steam right now. Had no idea this had happened until I read this article!

      Good! HP had to do a similar thing a few years back, and it was added to EVERY page of EVERY site, and was bloody annoying. It was like consumers were being punished, not HP.
      When I saw the article title, I was worried Steam would become almost unusable for Australians.

    I've been on Steam on and off all day today and never saw this so just went looking for it, and yeah its way, way down on the page. It's in the same colour scheme as the rest of the page so I scrolled past it before I realised it was there. Its almost like a footnote at the bottom of the screen.

    To have that notice so far down the steam page and not easily findable is nearly contempt of court. I really hope the court responds to this.

      This is consumer law. The fact that there is a Kotaku article about it is enough for Valve to present it as having fulfilled the court’s requirements. Eg. “It got coverage in Australian media” etc. Unless the court order specified that it had to be on the (for instance) “top third” of the page then they won’t bother revisiting it. There is an element of consumer-onus on transactions.

        Only information I found said "they must publish for 12 months" but no specifics on how.

    So I wonder how we get past the automatic responses to refund requests? I had an issue where I hadn't even got to load the game at all, yet their system has me registered as playing over 2 hours. Impossible to get through the automatic response.

      You'll probably have to contact consumer affairs in your state (I'm not sure if you can just go directly to the ACCC yourself) and get them to look into it. Valve probably won't make it easy for you.

        ACCC own the legislation (states signed on to the “Australian Consumer Law”), but State Consumer affairs will, at best, attempt to conciliate a Dispute. Typically they’ll send you to your State Civil tribunal if it’s a Dispute sub-$1k though (and here in Vic, the Liberal Govt made changes so it now costs about $300 [used to be about $40] to lodge a VCAT application)

    This should give us some protection against the industry trend of releasing half developed games riddled with bugs. Beth games in particular.

      Nothing in any recent Bethesda game constitutes a major failure as the ACL defines it that would qualify for a refund. For minor failures the vendor has the choice of remedy rather than the consumer.

      If they patch it within a timely manner I don't know if it would count as a major fault. ACL doesn't expect all products to be totally flawless and it's practically impossible for software these days to ship without bugs. 'Half-developed' games is also a subjective opinion for most people and not something that ACL would comment on unless there's fairly explicit advertising material that leads to an expectation of a game having a feature (and I don't think that a puff piece interview would count).

      ACL doesn't protect you if you play a game and decide it's shit for X or Y reasons. As Zombie Jesus says for a minor fault (and I'd argue that those that can be easily fixed with a patch would be minor) the vendor is well within the rights to 'repair' (e.g. patch) it and you have to accept that fix, you don't get to choose a refund. The physics engine occasionally bugging out and tossing an item through the floor (that you could fix by reloading a saved game) or quests occasionally breaking (which could be fixed by reloading or a patch) probably aren't major faults.

    Can they start using Australian currency soon please too?

      That makes to to easy to compare steam store prices against retail store prices, so no.

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