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Valve hit by Australian consumer lawsuit

Valve hit by Australian consumer lawsuit

Valve has agreed to co-operate with the Australian authorities on the matter of its refund policy.

Valve has been sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over its refund policy with Steam.

The Commission accused Valve of making ‘false or misleading representations regarding the application of the consumer guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law’.

The ways in which Valve has allegedly mislead consumers include telling them they were not entitled to a refund in any circumstances, that Valve had excluded, modified or restricted clauses that mean goods would be of acceptable quality and that Valve did not have to act if the consumer had not already tried to resolve things with the developr.

The law for states that it is a breach for any company to not give refunds under any circumstances, including for gifts 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 ACCC chairman Rod Sims. The ACCC itself is more than a traditional consumer rights group and has strong links with the Australian government.

Despite the alleged exclusions made by Valve, the company’s current refund policy does state that no refunds or exchanges on anything bought through the Steam ecosystem can be offered unless required by local law, which in this case seems to be the situation. Valve has issued a statement saying they are cooperating with the Australian officials and will continue to offer Steam services in the market.

An initial hearing on this matter is scheduled to take place on October 7.

18 Comments

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damien c 29th August 2014, 12:20 Quote
I really do hope that Valve get a good slapping over this since they don't offer refunds to anyone for any reason unless you have not played the game, or ran the software.

I have tried multiple times to get refunds on items which do not work properly and all the time I get told that because the game has been used for more than 1 second it, means it works fine and that they will not offer a refund on it.

It is one of the main reasons I try not to use Steam anymore and if a game is available on both Origin and Steam I will always buy it on Origin, since they actually do give refunds.
XXAOSICXX 29th August 2014, 12:36 Quote
I remember myself and 3 mates buying "Brink" when it was first released (or "Stink", as we later called it) at a cost of £35 a head, only to get it back to our LAN party and find out that not one of us could play the game with working audio or working AI. The game was utterly broken and, since it HAD to be registered on Steam - despite being retail copies - we were unable to get refunds from the retailer (Game) OR Valve.

£140 spent and not one of us could play the game. This action (in the article) is to be commended - there needs to be far more of this in the world...the sun doesn't shine out of Valve's arse nearly as much as people seem to think it does.
Corky42 29th August 2014, 13:02 Quote
Never had a need to request a refund from Valve but from what i have read they are pretty awful, I hope this gives them a kick in the refund policy they sorely need. I hesitate to buy some games from them because there is no going back once that button is clicked, they need to adopt a similar policy as Origin (imho).
notmeagain 29th August 2014, 13:08 Quote
developer*

Anyone trading in the global market needs to adhere to local laws as well.
Valve is in a tricky position - they are content providers, sure, just the same as Amazon and other e-tailers.

I'm pretty certain that if I went out and bought Sims 3 from a brick n mortar store, took it home, installed it, played it for 20 minutes - I would not be entitled to return or refund the game.

How is it different for digital content?

Steam can surely track time played on a particular game...

Didn't they refund people for "The WarZ" debacle too?
ArcAngeL 29th August 2014, 13:44 Quote
Well I could and should be entitled to a refund for bf4 from origin, single play mode, I found my self in 5 different areas of the game where it had glitches and not allowed me to continue in Single player mode.

aus laws are different to other countries, if you buy something and it is considered a manufacturing fault it's item replacement or money back. It's to prevent people from selling something that is defrauding e consumer.
Umbra 29th August 2014, 14:27 Quote
Why is Australia so different to the UK, we have consumer acts and sale of goods act, goods sold have to be fit for purpose or a refund is an option, it's all very well valve now complying but they have been allowed to get away with ignoring consumer laws for too long, maybe because the laws were unclear when it came to software but that has changed and software like any item sold has to be fit for purpose and work, valve have had things their own way for too long and it's time they were made to comply like any other retailer.
XXAOSICXX 29th August 2014, 15:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Umbra
Why is Australia so different to the UK, we have consumer acts and sale of goods act, goods sold have to be fit for purpose or a refund is an option, it's all very well valve now complying but they have been allowed to get away with ignoring consumer laws for too long, maybe because the laws were unclear when it came to software but that has changed and software like any item sold has to be fit for purpose and work, valve have had things their own way for too long and it's time they were made to comply like any other retailer.

Unfortunately for us (if you're in the UK, as I am), our laws don't recognise a software "purchase" as the purchase of the goods themselves - only as a licence to USE the goods that still remain the property of the vendor/retailer/distributor/owner (depending on the model).

If you buy a hammer and on the first nail you hit the head snaps off the hammer is faulty. Yes, you've "used" the hammer - how else would you know it was faulty? The law entitles you to a refund.

Buy (a license to play) a game, try and launch it and it doesn't get past the opening movies, you've "used" the game, but if it's fundamentally broken and unusable/unfit for purpose..and you've got nothing, because your game - unlike the hammer - doesn't come with statutory rights and warranties that REQUIRE a product to be fit for purpose.

Thus, your game could be a total turd, never run, and Valve would not have to refund you...and that's what needs to change. It really is disgraceful.
Jim 29th August 2014, 15:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by XXAOSICXX
Unfortunately for us (if you're in the UK, as I am), our laws don't recognise a software "purchase" as the purchase of the goods themselves - only as a licence to USE the goods that still remain the property of the vendor/retailer/distributor/owner (depending on the model).

I'm not a lawyer, or even an enthusiastic amateur, but my understanding is that the problem is more that Valve don't consider it to be a purchase of the goods themselves, rather than the law specifically stating that video game licences are exempt.

If someone took Valve to court over it (I'm not aware that it has happened to date) I think they might just win.
John_T 29th August 2014, 16:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim
Quote:
Originally Posted by XXAOSICXX
Unfortunately for us (if you're in the UK, as I am), our laws don't recognise a software "purchase" as the purchase of the goods themselves - only as a licence to USE the goods that still remain the property of the vendor/retailer/distributor/owner (depending on the model).

I'm not a lawyer, or even an enthusiastic amateur, but my understanding is that the problem is more that Valve don't consider it to be a purchase of the goods themselves, rather than the law specifically stating that video game licences are exempt.

If someone took Valve to court over it (I'm not aware that it has happened to date) I think they might just win.

I'm no lawyer either, but I've successfully sued a couple of companies regarding faulty goods using the "Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as Amended)" law. Only had to go to court twice, as the majority of companies back down once you start quoting your rights under law.

I've never had an issue with a service that needed pursuing that far, but, if I got stung for £35 / £140 over something that was plainly not fit for purpose, and the company flatly refused to be reasonable, I'd start quoting my rights under the "Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982" and see where it lead me.

Companies only get away with screwing people over because most people are completely unaware of their rights, and even of the small minority that do know their rights, many are too frightened to go to court and will still back down when given a flat 'no'. Going to a county court is easy, relatively cheap - and a damn sight less inconvenient for the average individual than it is for the company.

A civil court case in a county court between a private individual and a company will be held in the private individuals local court - so if you live in, say, Truro in Cornwall, and the company you are suing is based in Manchester, down to Cornwall they must come. If it's only over a small amount of money, most companies would throw the towel in at that point anyway.

I don't believe in needlessly and unfairly victimising companies, but I'll be damned if I'll let them do it to me either.
LordPyrinc 29th August 2014, 16:31 Quote
I haven't had to ask for a refund via Steam yet, however, there have been some games that I've purchased through Steam that either don't run without jumping through extra configuration hoops or the games crash on load. So far I've managed to find ways around the bugs for the most part and get the game running, but some I've had to wait on the developer to patch the game. Fallen Enchantress comes to mind. I could run the game for a bit, tutorials worked fine, then in the main game it would either freeze up or crash at a random time. The developer has since fixed that issue with a patch and the game runs fine.

On the other hand, sometimes buggy games purchased through Steam are broken as a result of Steam itself. For example I had to disable the in-game Steam functionality of one of the Crysis games to keep it from crashing right after the intro.

In another case, I helped troubleshoot a problem with a developer of Defender's Quest when a patch caused some errors. Should Steam have been held accountable for that? I don't think so. But supposing another individual had just bought the game and tried to play with the buggy patch?

Then of course, since we are dealing with PCs here in a multitude software and hardware configurations, it can be difficult to figure out who is at fault if the game loads for some but not others.

I guess my point is, Steam should be held accountable when it is their fault for sure... but it gets a little grey when it's the developer's fault due to bad patching or releasing a game via Steam that wasn't thoroughly tested to work with it.
schmidtbag 29th August 2014, 17:17 Quote
If there's one thing that I don't like about Steam, it's their return policy. Overall, I don't REALLY care since I never had to return something, though there are a couple games I own where I'm like "eh... this was a waste of money" but there needs to be a grace period. I think if the game has been played for less than 2 hours, or, has been owned for less than 1 month, you should be able to get a refund no questions asked.
XXAOSICXX 29th August 2014, 18:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by John_T
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim
Quote:
Originally Posted by XXAOSICXX
Unfortunately for us (if you're in the UK, as I am), our laws don't recognise a software "purchase" as the purchase of the goods themselves - only as a licence to USE the goods that still remain the property of the vendor/retailer/distributor/owner (depending on the model).

I'm not a lawyer, or even an enthusiastic amateur, but my understanding is that the problem is more that Valve don't consider it to be a purchase of the goods themselves, rather than the law specifically stating that video game licences are exempt.

If someone took Valve to court over it (I'm not aware that it has happened to date) I think they might just win.

I'm no lawyer either, but I've successfully sued a couple of companies regarding faulty goods using the "Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as Amended)" law. Only had to go to court twice, as the majority of companies back down once you start quoting your rights under law.

I've never had an issue with a service that needed pursuing that far, but, if I got stung for £35 / £140 over something that was plainly not fit for purpose, and the company flatly refused to be reasonable, I'd start quoting my rights under the "Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982" and see where it lead me.

Companies only get away with screwing people over because most people are completely unaware of their rights, and even of the small minority that do know their rights, many are too frightened to go to court and will still back down when given a flat 'no'. Going to a county court is easy, relatively cheap - and a damn sight less inconvenient for the average individual than it is for the company.

A civil court case in a county court between a private individual and a company will be held in the private individuals local court - so if you live in, say, Truro in Cornwall, and the company you are suing is based in Manchester, down to Cornwall they must come. If it's only over a small amount of money, most companies would throw the towel in at that point anyway.

I don't believe in needlessly and unfairly victimising companies, but I'll be damned if I'll let them do it to me either.

You're quite right, of course.

The biggest fear - the barrel we're all being rogered over - is that if you do request refunds from Valve, and they then decide that *you're* somehow in breach of the T&Cs of sale, you lose your account - hundreds of games, gone forever. And that, unfortunately, is something I really AM afraid of. Not the litigation (been there myself, incidentally, more than once).
Anfield 29th August 2014, 23:35 Quote
From what I remember from the days before Steam existed PC Games where always excluded from any right to return for refund once the seal on the box had been broken.

Based on that why would you expect to suddenly gain more rights just because it was a purchase made through a digital distribution platform?

In other words, back in the old days you where not even allowed to attempt to install a pc game without voiding your right to return it for a refund, so why would steam be any different?

Is it morally right? No.
Is it legally right? Ask three lawyers and you'll get seven different answers.
XXAOSICXX 30th August 2014, 01:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anfield
From what I remember from the days before Steam existed PC Games where always excluded from any right to return for refund once the seal on the box had been broken.

Based on that why would you expect to suddenly gain more rights just because it was a purchase made through a digital distribution platform?

In other words, back in the old days you where not even allowed to attempt to install a pc game without voiding your right to return it for a refund, so why would steam be any different?

Is it morally right? No.
Is it legally right? Ask three lawyers and you'll get seven different answers.

For a long time, pre-Steam, Game had a no-quibble-refund-guarantee. It could be opened, used, installed, played, completed, it didn't matter. If you weren't satisfied you got a refund.

And then Steam happened...and that stopped.
Corky42 30th August 2014, 09:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by XXAOSICXX
For a long time, pre-Steam, Game had a no-quibble-refund-guarantee. It could be opened, used, installed, played, completed, it didn't matter. If you weren't satisfied you got a refund.

Not in my town they didn't, or at least not the last time i bought a game from them some 20-25 year ago.
XXAOSICXX 30th August 2014, 16:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Quote:
Originally Posted by XXAOSICXX
For a long time, pre-Steam, Game had a no-quibble-refund-guarantee. It could be opened, used, installed, played, completed, it didn't matter. If you weren't satisfied you got a refund.

Not in my town they didn't, or at least not the last time i bought a game from them some 20-25 year ago.

Indeed. It was around 10 years or so ago that they tried to reinvent themselves in the eyes of PC gamers and started to offer no-quibble refunds (having lost a ton of us to piracy and/or other cheaper retailers).

Needless to say, all that happened was they got a ton of people buying games, downloading no-CD cracks from gamecopyworld (does that place even exist any more?) and getting refunds without hassle.
jimmyjj 31st August 2014, 04:49 Quote
Steam has gone downhill recently but they are too big to care.

The one occasion I had to contact them for support their service was atrocious.

I waited several day to receive a pre-written stock e-mail that was only barely relevant to the question I had asked.

Steam is good for cheap games during the sales but if I had to pay full price I would buy it on Origin (and that is something I never thought I would say).

Then you have the shovelware, misdescribed, unfinished buggy crap they have allowed to flood the shop.

I have no respect for Steam anymore and simply see them as A.N.Other game service to be used when they are cheapest and ignored when they are not.
Star*Dagger 1st September 2014, 22:26 Quote
I think we can safely ignore the Aussie's when it has to do with gaming. See hundreds of articles with their moronic rating and censorship system.
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