Update, April 27: Valve have issued a statement to Australian Steam users.
In the wake of their failed appeal against a $3 million fine for "misleading" Australian consumers, Valve have issued a notice regarding Australian consumer rights.
It's been a tough few months for Valve - they also managed to misspell a new CS:GO pin.
The statement reads that "On 24 March 2016, the Federal Court of Australia found that Valve Corporation had engaged in misleading conduct contrary to the Australian Consumer Law in representing to Australian consumers via the Steam Subscriber Agreement and Steam Refund Policy." Valve had previously said that Australian consumers did not have a right to a refund under the company's policy, which only allows customers to return products if they have owned them for less than 14 days and played them for less than two hours.
That's in contradiction to Australian law, which states that citizens are entitled to refunds that Valve aren't allowed to circumvent. Valve's statement reads that customers should find games "free from defects," "acceptable in appearance and finish," and "fit for all the purposes for which videogames are commonly supplied." You can read the full statement here.
Update, April 20: Looks like Valve are going to have to pay their fine.
Valve's appeal against a $3 million fine issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been dismissed. The decision, announced today, means Valve are (probably) going to have to pay the fine.
The fine was first issued in 2016, when the ACCC said that Valve's refund policy was invalid under Australian consumer law, and that the company "had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to Australian customers." Valve have already attempted (unsuccessfully) to appeal against the fine, arguing that as they have no physical presence in the country, its laws should not apply to their digital marketplace.
A second appeal has today been dismissed by the High Court of Australia. In a statement, ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said "this important precedent confirms the ACCC's view that overseas-based companies selling to Australian consumers must abide by our laws."
The Australian High Court refused Valve's special leave application, ruling that Valve is bound by Australia's laws when selling to Australian customers. The decision on the issue is final, and could set interesting precendents elsewhere in the world.
Update, January 24: Valve have filed a second appeal against a $3 million fine issued by the Australian courts.
Having been ordered to pay penalties amounting to $3 million for misleading Australian customers, Valve have filed a second appeal against the claims against them and the fine.
The company's initial appeal was dismissed. But according to Johnny Roses, a policy lawyer working for the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (who represent videogame developers, publishers, and distributers across Australia and New Zealand), the company have applied for "special leave" to file a second appeal.
Valve has applied for special leave to the High Court, to appeal the Federal Court decision that it misled and deceived consumers on Steam— Jonny Roses (@jonny_roses) January 23, 2018
Original decision and $3 million fine will continue to remain on hold until the High Court makes its decision or the application is rejected pic.twitter.com/vjlk1QFFd2
Roses says that the "original decision and $3 million fine will continue to remain on hold until the High Court makes its decision or the application is rejected." Valve's appeal stems from the fact that the company claims that having never operated in Australia, it is not accountable to Australian consumer law. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, however, states that as there are 2.2 million Steam users in Australia, Valve are affected by the country's laws.
Original story, December 22: The Australian Federal Court has thrown out two appeals by Valve in a case between the company and the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). The dismissal of the two appeals means that Valve will have to pay a $3 million penalty.
The case dates back to 2014, with Australian consumers complaining that they were not able to get refunds on games bought through Steam, something that is allowed under Australian Consumer Law, which states that “all consumer goods or services come with automatic consumer guarantees that they are of acceptable quality and fit for the purpose for which they were sold. If they are not, consumers have a right to a remedy, which may include refund, repair, or replacement in certain circumstances. These consumer rights cannot be excluded, restricted, or modified.”
Valve now offers refunds through the Steam client, but in 2014, when the case was filed, they didn’t. While the company is based in America, the fact that they sell products in Australia means they are bound by Australian law on those products. As such, a previous version of Steam’s worldwide license agreement told Australian users that they were not entitled to refunds on their purchases, was deemed “misleading” by Australian courts.
According to itwire, Valve were appealing “against a ruling that it engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations about consumer guarantees,” as well as a $3 million (AUS) fine. Both appeals were dismissed. The ACCC themselves report that Valve have also been ordered to “publish information on Australian consumer rights on their website for 12 months,” “implement a consumer compliance program for their system and staff,” and “not make any similar representations to Australian consumers for three years.”