Australian government to challenge Steam's no refunds policy

Valve faces federal court case for restrictions on Australian consumer law

Valve's no refunds policy will face a legal challenge from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The ACCC revealed its intentions today, accusing Valve of making "false or misleading representations" regarding the rights of its Steam customers under Australian consumer law.

The issue does not relate to any treatment meted out to Australian Steam users specifically. Rather, it is down to Valve's brad stance on refunds falling afoul of the intricacies of the region's law.

"It is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law for businesses to state that they do not give refunds under any circumstances, including for gifts and during sales. Under the Australian Consumer Law, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their option if a product has a major fault," said Rod Sims, chairman of the ACCC, in a statement.

"The consumer guarantees provided under the Australian Consumer Law cannot be excluded, restricted or modified."

The ACCC has pointed out that Valve rules out refunds "in any circumstances," as well as altering or restricting statutory guarantees regarding product quality. And the fact that Valve is an American company with no physical Australian presence does not exclude it from the protections offered by Australian Consumer Law.

A post on the ACCC website stated that, "The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, disclosure orders, adverse publicity orders, non-party consumer redress, a compliance program order and costs."

The first directions hearing is scheduled to take place in Sydney Federal Court on October 7 2014.

Valve has already responded to the matter, issuing a statement to IGN describing its commitment to cooperating with the ACCC, while continuing to offer the Steam service to the Australian market.

As part of that statememt, Valve referred to Section 3 of the Steam Subscriber Agreement, which reads as follows:

"As with most software products, unless required by local law, we do not offer refunds or exchanges on games, DLC or in-game items purchased on our website or through the Steam Client. Please review Section 3 of the Steam Subscriber Agreement for more information."

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Latest comments (6)

Iain Stanford Experienced Software Engineer, Tinderstone4 years ago

Refund and return policies benefit the consumers. I'm sure lots of companies would like to have a no returns policy, but thankfully they (mostly) can't.

Steams customer service is pretty damn poor, especially when you're not in the same time zone resulting in at most one or two emails a day going back and forth. Steam has a lot of areas with regards to customer service that really need improving....its more a shame that it takes governments and legislation to get them to do it.
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Adam Campbell Game Manager, Azoomee4 years ago
I immediately thought about the Google Play refund system, which admittadly I've used quite a lot - 15mins to change your mind. It offers a level of protection (without fuss) when you realise an app isn't workable or nearly what you expected.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 4 years ago
Valve of course won't apply the things to everyone

They desperately need to learn about customer service, but don't really see a need to. It's going to take a similar lawsuit to get them to install basic things like "phone line"

I've heard stories from many employees about desperate customers calling the main office number and hammering extensions till they get a human being, and them trying their best to be helpful. Valve claims they can't find enough "qualified" CSR, but all they seem to do to me is cut an pd paste form letters to get them to tell me what the serial number was on a game, so I could get tech support (the serial was patched in, not listed in my account) took 3 emails and seven days. Other interactions have taken as long as three weeks, even though the requested documentation was sent in the initial email. It seems "qualified" means "$2 games don't pay a lot of salaries, better work cheap".

Of Valve wishes to continue to rule the PC game industry, they need to provide the level of service that every other company I have ever dealt with does, It should not take me 7-21 days to resolve these problems. The lady I talked to at EA Origin, Who didn't sound like a gamer solved my problems in 7 minutes. She listened to my problem, paid attention, and found a quick, efficient solution. I hope that Valve wakes up, or preferably sells Steam to make it an Ultraviolet style organization, centralizing services for the entire digital ecosystem.
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James Prendergast Research Chemist 4 years ago
@ Jeff. It's an interesting thought you've given me. Most "competitors" of valve try and compete on the game service front. I wonder how a competitor would fare if they competed on customer service instead... a couple have tried (e.g Stardock, XBO before the 180 and GoG) but most of their talk was just that and never ended up with game trades and such.

Of course, they also have to have an amenable game service too and trust from the consumer - something EA does not have from me.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 30th August 2014 3:18pm

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Petter Solberg Freelance Writer & Artist, 4 years ago
This is part of the reason why many are still wary of digital purchases. If companies expect to be able to cut distribution costs while getting rid of consumer rights at the same time, the transition is never going to happen.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 4 years ago
People don't value service over price, and Valve is essentially Lily Tomlin at this point "We're the PC game empire, we don't care, we don't have to"

The only way to be "better" is for someone to offer to port all their Steam licenses for free and offer $1 games The Microsoft system is very real, but without the check ins, it doesn't work as I've stated n the past, Sony's scorched earth campaign was in response to their planned but scrapped total used game lockout and the years it would have taken to launch their own version.

Media companies of all stripes are in for a very nasty surprise. Their customers over twenty will not pay $59.99 for something they can't touch (especially can't sell), and the younger kids don't value ownership at all. Services are great for catalog titles, but new releases need the hard cash only ownership brings. There's a pretty hard wall at about a third of people who will pay more than $19-15 for digital games, and $5-8 for movies. The saving over physical don't even begin to make up the deficit since Steam's audience is primarily composed of that 30%, they're far more secure than most in holding on to these positions.

I'll tel you I trust EA way more than Valve. At least they solve my problems in a timely manner, and don't make BS excuses and ban people from their forums who complain (not me). Given their level of control over the market, it's time for them to step up, or step doen.
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