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Retail

Steam subscriber agreement now blocks class-action suits

Steam subscriber agreement now blocks class-action suits

Wed 01 Aug 2012 9:07am GMT / 5:07am EDT / 2:07am PDT
RetailOnline

Valve changes terms on the grounds that class-action suits are long, costly, and mostly benefit the lawyers

Valve has applied the divisive Federal Arbitration Act to prevent Steam users from filing class-action lawsuits against the company.

Should Valve be unable to deal with any complaint through normal customer service channels, a "new required process" will see the matter resolved through arbitration or a small claims court.

"Most significant to the new dispute resolution terms is that customers may now only bring individual claims, not class action claims," a statement released by the company read.

"It's clear to us that, in some situations, class actions have real benefits to customers. In far too many cases however, class actions don't provide any real benefit to users and instead impose unnecessary expense and delay, and are often designed to benefit the class action lawyers who craft and litigate these claims.

"We think this new dispute resolution process is faster and better for you and Valve while avoiding unnecessary costs, and that it will therefore benefit the community as a whole."

Valve has agreed to refund the cost of the user's arbitration - for claims below $10,000, and on the understanding that the arbitrator doesn't deem the claim "frivolous" or "unreasonable" - regardless of the final verdict.

The prohibition of class-action suits in favour of private legal systems is not unusual with businesses of Valve's size. However, it would theoretically prevent a large number of people from taking legal action against the company as one entity if, for example, it denied access to games they had paid for, or if the service ever closed entirely.

EA recently settled a class-action suit over exclusivity rights in the Madden and NCAA Football franchises.

7 Comments

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,577 1,427 0.9
However, it would theoretically prevent a large number of people from taking legal action against the company if it denied access to games they had paid for, or if the service ever closed entirely.
Re: Bolded part. I'm not a lawyer, but this isn't worded very well. It does not prevent a large number of people from taking legal action against the company. It does prevent a large number of people's claims being rolled into one single claim, for better or for worse. However, it's just as easy for 10,000 people to claim against Valve individually as it is for 10.


Edit: And I notice you edited the article. Thanks. :)


Also, whilst agreement with the SSA voids claimant's rights to sue Valve as part of a class-action lawsuit, there's a chance that if the entire Steam userbase were affected by something negatively then the voiding procedure could be over-ruled by a court on appeal. I believe such things are possible, but tremendously unlikely.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 1st August 2012 10:57am

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Terence Gage Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
Do class action lawsuits even exist in Europe? And aren't these kind of T&Cs invalid if they in any way impede a person's legal rights? I can see a judge throwing out these arbitrary 'rules' if it's decided they're anti-consumer.

Posted:2 years ago

#2

Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments

302 383 1.3
@Terence: think some European states have something similar to class actions, but most don't. And they aren't impeding rights, they're invoking a specific law that allows them to avoid class actions by providing an alternative. I think, anyway.

Posted:2 years ago

#3

James Prendergast Research Chemist

735 432 0.6
@ Neil: You mean "enforcing an alternative". The alternative always existed both for arbitration and small claims. There's no need to force it on consumers unless it turns out that arbitration is financially better for companies both in total costs and in terms of awards to consumers.... oh, wait!

Not good at all.... Furthermore they're holding my steam account and games hostage until I agree to this. I read the new section twice and scanned the whole EULA but I can't seem to see anywhere what exactly happens if I click disagree. What happens to all my games and my account?

Not impressed with this at all. As it stands there's no gaming for me on PC until this is sorted out as most of my games are under steam - more the fool for me! >:(

[edit]"We think this new dispute resolution process is faster and better for you and Valve while avoiding unnecessary costs, and that it will therefore benefit the community as a whole."

Well, *I* think differently... and if this was a contract at point of sale we could discuss this but as it is I'm being held with my pseudo property (I paid for all that stuff!) at risk and I've no recourse because companies hold all the cards. Pathetic.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 2nd August 2012 6:08am

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,193 1,170 0.5
They're more or less doing what everyone else will be doing (or has done already) - covering their asses for the next big hack, cloud crash or major service interruption that will have people not being able to do a damn thing except scream at a blank screen because they can't get online to access the content they paid for.

www.hotcoffeethemovie.com/ will tell you all you need to know. Take time to watch this and get ready to kick something. Don't break a toe doing it, as there's no one to sue if you do.

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D

863 707 0.8
It's been years since I was a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure you can agree to binding arbitration, which means you're not allowed to appeal to the courts except on very strict issues of law.

Steam is a great service - as someone who has maybe a dozen games on Steam, I don't have a problem with this at all.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,577 1,427 0.9
@ Fran

Yeah, as a consumer, I'm not bothered either, to be honest. Sure, this could be the point they turn Evil. But honestly? So unlikely as to be laughable.

Posted:2 years ago

#7

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