Australian consumer rights regulator sues Valve over Steam refund policy

Earth: Year 2066 was removed from sale by Valve after player complaints.

Valve’s refund policy is easily summarised: they don’t do ‘em. And while they have been known to reach into their own pockets to recompense, for instance, Earth: Year 2066 players, the blanket ban has often rubbed consumer watchdogs the wrong way – so that all their watchdoghair stands on end.

Enter the Australian Competition and Consumer Authority, who last week began proceedings in the country’s federal court against Valve. They allege that Valve have made “false or misleading representations” to their Australian customers.

The ACCC are worried that Valve’s refund policy doesn’t comply with Australian consumer protection law – which covers rights to refunds and returns.

“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 ACCC chairman Rod Sims in a press release. “Under the Australian Consumer Law, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their option if a product has a major fault.”

In particular, the ACCC say Valve have misled Australian customers by leading them to believe 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.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a consumer rights group sue Valve. But gaming law expert Jas Purewal suggests that the stakes are higher this time. Australia shares its common law bedrock with the UK, Canada and New Zealand – and those countries have paid close attention to its legal precedent in the past.

Have you been burned by Valve’s refund policy before? Would you like to see it change?