Valve loses lawsuit in Australia concerning refunds

This just in:

The company behind one of the world’s most popular video games websites has been found to be in breach of Australian consumer law.
The Federal Court found Valve, which operates online game website Steam, engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by telling Australian players they were not entitled to refunds for digitally downloaded content.

Full article: Online games giant Valve found to have breached Australian consumer law

Not sure what that means now that Valve actually has a refund policy, but this should be worth following.

The judgment was about false misrepresentations made in the past, so the fact that they now have a refund policy doesn’t really have any bearing on it. Basically it wasn’t the policy that got them in trouble, legally, it was what they said about consumer rights in support of that policy.

Also, the most important part of the judgment in terms of broader implications is that the court found that Steam is in the business of providing digital goods, not services. To the extent that is followed elsewhere and for other software/games, that’s pretty huge. That said, I don’t think the UK will follow, even though it is pretty close to Australia on a lot of common law legal issues, as the statutory position on software is fairly clear these days.

I love the fact that the first (and insightful) comment was made by someone with a Phoenix Wright avatar. OBJECTION! ;)

I just a felt a massive disturbance in the Force, as if a powerful spectre of Steam hatred tried to reply to this thread, but could not

That wasn’t any more witty than the baiting in other threads before the ban.

Yes, that was unpleasant to watch. Let’s be kinder to Tom, ok?

Are you done gloating? Or should I close this thread, too?

-Tom

I hope you don’t close the thread. Those news are not only worthy of notice, they might have deep implications in how games are perceived in terms of consumer laws in Australia and elsewhere.

Also, closing the thread wouldn’t solve the problem. Let’s hope that simple warning you just gave will solve it though.

Is the Steam refund policy the same in every country?

I think so, but don’t quote me on that. Last I checked, there were no explicit mentions to different countries in the TOS other than saying that if the TOS differed from local laws, than local laws would be in effect in most cases or something.

Disclosure may be different. There’s wording in Europe when you buy an item that is clearly based on the recent EU directive. But given that it basically amounted to acknowledging that completing the purchase constituted a waiver, it didn’t have any bearing on the actual policy.

Exactly how can they enforce this? Valve has no presence in Australia, presumably no assets that could be seized. How can they enforce an Australian court judgement against them?

Australian government could prevent them from selling anything in Australia. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

If you are asking that as a general question, countries have various laws and treaties that allow you to enforce judgments from other countries. It can take a while, and is dependent upon circumstances (for example, China is notorious for essentially ignoring U.S. intellectual property law judgments), but the fact that you are in country A, while the judgment is from country B, does not mean you are entirely safe.

When the two countries are the United States and Australia, it means it is even more likely that a court from one would enforce a judgment from another.

Yeah, in the current climate of globalisation and free trade, there are mechanisms to enforce good corporate citizenship, which includes adherence to trading practices in regions you participate in.

It’s obvious that Valve saw the writing on the wall some time ago, here and in other countries, hence the implementation of the refund policy. Its still good they are being held to account for past transgressions.

This is a really important decision, I think, not just for the gaming sector, but in the whole online goods and services sector. This will set precedent that you can’t just set up your business in some foreign country and expect to be exempt from adhering to statutory consumer protections in regions that you are demonstrated to be trading. This is a good thing for consumers.

And how would they do that? How would they prevent Australians from accessing Steam?

Interesting judgment - and of course one of the games that was the basis for the case had to be X-Rebirth!

The same way Donald Trump would close parts of the internet. Duh.

-Tom

I’m not sure what mechanisms are in practice available to them (I’m actually very curious if any Australians know) without new legislation, but hypothetically:

ISP block
Go after the payment processors
Punitive tax surcharge
Hell, there might even be something in the game censorship laws they could use
Advertising ban

Many US media providers (for series and movies) require you pay with a credit card associated to a US bank. Not even Paypal works. You can use VPNs to get around IP checks, but paywall checks are harder. I work through PSN’s systems (Sony has hard checks also for buying games) by getting PSN cards through Amazon, but short of a prepaid card like that, you can easily block payments by region, afaik.

Hypothetically (I really think this is far fetched) I think the opposite could be done, that is, the government can ban Australian credit cards to be used to buy from Valve? Australian banks would have to comply and it would affect most of Valve’s business in the region.