The Federal Court has found Valve Corporation guilty of making misleading representations about consumer guarantees and refunds.
29 March 2016: After a year and a half of protracted legal proceedings the Federal Court found Valve Corporation (via its online game distribution platform Steam), guilty of misleading to Australian consumers about refunds and consumer guarantees.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) instituted proceedings against digital content distributor Valve in August 2014. The complaints stemmed from Valve stating that its online distribution platform Steam didn't offer refunds, warranties or guarantees of any kind via its website or Australian Steam client server, which is forbidden by Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
There's been a lot of back and forth over the last two years. Valve has insisted that while Australians make up part of its consumer base, it's still a US company and is therefore exempt from Australian laws and practices.
These pleas seem to have landed on deaf ears.
When the ACCC launched legal action against Valve back in August 2014, chairman Rod Sims had this to say about Valve's rebuttal:
"The Australian Consumer Law applies to any business providing goods or services within Australia. Valve may be an American based company with no physical presence in Australia, but it is carrying on business in Australia by selling to Australian consumers, who are protected by the Australian Consumer Law.
Since the initial proceedings, Steam has since implemented a refund system but it was not in place back in August when the ACCC sued. Steam allows refunds on accidental purchases, mismatched PC requirements or even a change of mind. There are two requirements that must be met for the customer to qualify for a refund: the purchase must have been made less than 14 days before the refund date and the player must have logged less than two hours play time on the refunded title. More information on Steam refunds here.
Today, the court found Valve guilty of making the following false misrepresentations to Australian consumers:
- Consumers were not entitled to a refund for digitally downloaded games purchased from Valve via the Steam website or Steam Client (in any circumstances)
- Valve had excluded statutory guarantees and/or warranties that goods would be of acceptable quality
- Valve had restricted or modified statutory guarantees and/or warranties of acceptable quality
Justice Edelman surmised that Valve most certainly are "carrying on business" in Australia and will therefore have to operate under the laws that regulate Australian businesses.
There is no information yet regarding how much Valve will be liable for, but we'll keep tabs on the story as it moves forward.