The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is suing Valve over its Steam refund policy, which it contends is in breach of Australian law.
Valve does not provide refunds for any products purchased on its massive US-based digital distribution platform, Steam. However, Australians are guaranteed refunds for faulty goods under Australian Consumer Law:
The ACCC alleges that Valve made false or misleading representations to Australian customers of Steam that:
- consumers were not entitled to a refund for any games sold by Valve via Steam in any circumstances;
- Valve had excluded, restricted or modified statutory guarantees and/or warranties that goods would be of acceptable quality;
- Valve was not under any obligation to repair, replace or provide a refund for a game where the consumer had not contacted and attempted to resolve the problem with the computer game developer; and the statutory consumer guarantees did not apply to games sold by Valve.
There are more than 75 million gamers actively using Steam. According to worldwide Steam sales by region, Australia and New Zealand accounted for 5 percent of Steam’s total sales in 2013.
Steam's refund policy states, “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.” [Emphasis added.]
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said 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.
“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,” said Sims. “Under the Australian Consumer Law, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their option if a product has a major fault.
“The consumer guarantees provided under the Australian Consumer Law cannot be excluded, restricted or modified.”
Valve's Doug Lombardi has responded, saying the company intends to fully cooperate.
“We are making every effort to cooperate with the Australian officials on this matter while continuing to provide Steam services to our customers across the world, including Australian gamers.”
The case will go before the Australian Federal Court in Sydney on October 7.