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Valve breached Australian Consumer Law says ruling

by Mark Tyson on 30 March 2016, 09:31

Tags: Valve

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaczqw

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Back in 2014 the Australian consumer watchdog took Valve to court due to complaints over its lack of refund policy. After 18 months of legal wrangling, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and the Australian Federal Court have now ruled that Valve was indeed in breach of Australian Consumer Law. Liability and legal costs payments are to be decided at a later date.

At the start of the case, the ACCC asked Valve implement the following, reports Kotaku:

  • Provide an email address that specifically deals with refunds as per Australian Consumer law.
  • Provide a 1800 number to help consumers address any refund issues.
  • Provide a PO Box address for consumers to deal with refunds.
  • Appoint representatives (the ACCC refer to this person as a contact officer) to reply to consumers regarding refunds.

Australian consumer law requires a refund policy to be in place. Valve's initial defence was that it didn't officially conduct business in Australia but only provided access to an online portal for video games via a client; it denied this constituted the supply of 'goods' as defined by Australian law. Furthermore Valve asserted that its Steam Subscriber Agreement – to which gamers worldwide agree – is the law of the State of Washington USA, not Australian law.

The Australian court has disagreed with Valve's assertions of whether it is conducting trade in Australia or not. "The Federal Court’s decision reinforces that foreign based businesses selling goods and/or services to Australian consumers can be subject to Australian Consumer Law obligations, including the consumer guarantees," said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims. "In this case, Valve is a US company operating mainly outside Australia, but, in making representations to Australian consumers, the Federal Court has found that Valve engaged in conduct in Australia. It is also significant that the Court held that, in any case, based on the facts, Valve was carrying on business in Australia."

Furthermore Sims noted that this was the first time that the courts had extended the definition of goods to include software. This ruling looks set to have a big impact on consumer confidence in buying digital goods. Of course, between 2014 and the present day Valve has implemented a worldwide 14-day refund policy.

A hearing has been scheduled for 15th April to discuss potential relief payments from Valve. Kotaku reckons that in addition to any liability payments that may be set, Valve will have to pay up to 75 per cent of the ACCC's legal costs.



HEXUS Forums :: 8 Comments

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This is as stupid as France saying google needs to erase half of internet because they said so.

Edited for language
aniilv
Edited for language

Isn't the flip side of that everyone having to know what the local laws are for the company they deal with?
Personally I'm more in favor of the company complying with the laws of the country that their customers live in and if they don't agree with those laws don't sell to that country, seems preferable to millions of people having to learn all the different consumer laws of the businesses they buy stuff from.
Generally in most of the world minus america we have pretty good consumer protection laws etc that steam origin uplay etc all ignore.
Corky34
aniilv
Edited for language

Isn't the flip side of that everyone having to know what the local laws are for the company they deal with?
Personally I'm more in favor of the company complying with the laws of the country that their customers live in and if they don't agree with those laws don't sell to that country, seems preferable to millions of people having to learn all the different consumer laws of the businesses they buy stuff from.

Nah. There should be a standard created for all internet consumption, not tied to a physical country, as the internet itself is not necessarily tied to a certain landmass. IMO the internet should not be ruled by petty governments with tautological authority over a given landmass. All these rulings ever achieve is further complication and frustration for everyone concerned.
Luke7
All these rulings ever achieve is further complication and frustration for everyone concerned.

In this case it seems like a totally logical ruling. I'm not sure which bit of it you find complicated or frustrating.