An Australian court has found Valve is in violation of Australian consumer protection law by not having a refund policy in place for Australia. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has ruled that Valve had no refund policy in place which ran contrary to Australian Consumer law. This has since been corrected but this suit was filed in August 2014 before the current policy was put in place. Valves main defense was that it does not sell consumer good in Australia rather its selling a digital product, and that product comes from their headquarters in Washington state.
The Australian Federal Court ruled that Valve had made “false or misleading representations in the terms and conditions contained in three versions of its Steam Subscriber Agreement and two versions of its Steam Refund Policy”. These include:
Consumers were not entitled to a refund for digitally downloaded games purchased from Valve via the Steam website or Steam Client (in any circumstances);
Valve had excluded statutory guarantees and/or warranties that goods would be of acceptable quality; and
Valve had restricted or modified statutory guarantees and/or warranties of acceptable quality.
the ACCC seemed pleased with the decision as Chairman Rod Sims said “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,” and went on to specifically mention digital goods “This is also the first time Courts have applied the extended definition of ‘goods’ to include “computer software” in the ACL. It will provide greater certainty where digital goods are supplied to consumers through online platforms.”
The ACCC had asked Valve in the initial court documents to:
• 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.
The judgement by the courts means that Valve will need to pay out for pocket some damages, and all of the legal fees that the ACCC have inured during the two year long trial.