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Australian consumer rights group sues Valve over refund policy
Australian consumer rights group sues Valve over refund policy
August 29, 2014 | By Mike Rose

August 29, 2014 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, an independent authority put together by the Australian government to protect consumer rights, is suing Valve over its Steam refund policy.

As is widely known, Valve's refund policy states that it does not offer refunds for games purchased through Steam. As a result, the ACCC alleges that this rule goes directly against Australian consumer law.

The ACCC says that the law applies to any business providing goods within Australia, reports Kotaku, and as such, alleges that Valve has no right to say Australia consumers cannot get a refund on Steam purchases.

"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," states ACCC Chairman Rod Sims. "Under the Australian Consumer Law, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their option if a product has a major fault."

Valve's Doug Lombardi responded to the lawsuit, stating, "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 Sydney Federal Court hearing is due to commence on October 7.

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Terry Matthes
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Have private citizens complained or is this just another attempt by their government to drive one more nail in Australia's gamer culture?

E Zachary Knight
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I wouldn't say I have ever complained about it, but it is one of the reasons why I have never bought anything through Steam.

I prefer services like GOG and Humble Bundle which make an effort to ensure the software runs on a vast majority of modern systems.

Chris Melby
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Every title I've bought from Steam since 2007 -- even the old DOS release titles like my Lucas games -- have all worked on my various PCs without a hitch.

I'm under the impression that Valve is inline with GOG -- which I also support -- when it comes to quality, but then again I have not invested in any of these pre-alpha-titles(gambles).

john smith
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How does protecting the rights of consumers as gamers negatively affect gamer culture? Surely it improves gamer culture?

The ACCC acted because citizens made complaints.

The whole concept of "no refund" is ridiculous. What if you buy something and it turns out to be rubbish? Perhaps they lied in the marketing, or it has lots of bugs. I'd sure as hell want a refund.

To say that refunds cannot be given for digital downloads is crazy. As long as you can show proof that you should get a refund, the company should give a refund.

Kai Boernert
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Well I bought as not Alpha games

Sword of the Stars 2

to just name two.

The first, while not what I expected, is currently working fine, but needed around 2-3 month before it was runnable.
The second is still impossible to play in Multiplayer(desync, random crashes not working saves , wich I bought it for (After playing the first a long time with friends over the Internet).

So it is not only alpha games. Especially in case of the second I would really like a refund.

Then there is the Airline game,(somewhere in a post about Steams quality linked on this page) wich is a absolute joke.

Aiden Eades
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I can already see a flaw with their case

Under the Australian Consumer Law, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their option if a product has a major fault."

A digital download of a game. Now with a hardcopy version of the game, yes there can be obvious faults, damaged / scratched disks etc. But a digital download the only thing possibly at fault is a) the software or b) the hardware it runs on.

If the software is faulty, you can redownload it, and on occasion with games that actually are broken valve have offered refunds and removed the game from their stores.

If the hardware isn't capable of running the software, that is independent of the software itself so can't really be used as a case against it.

And even though it's clearly obvious by now, IANAL

E Zachary Knight
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If my computer meets the minimum requirements as advertised on the product page but the game runs like crap despite it, why should I not be allowed a refund?

If the game itself comes complete with major game breaking bugs, why should I not be allowed a refund?

These are very serious questions that Valve should address.

Alfa Etizado
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Valve gave me a refund once, on Dark Souls, after I showed them it was impossible to make the game work on my machine, likely because of GFWL. They said it was a one time thing and wouldn't do it ever again.

Maria Jayne
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I worry about digital refunds, I worry that the reason people want such a feature is because they want to abuse it by playing games and then giving them back without paying for them. I've never accidentally bought a game I didn't intend to buy, the amount of hoops I have to jump through to purchase on steam makes it hard for me to believe people are accidentally buying games unintentionally. There are four separate windows you need to advance through before payment is made and that is assuming you have all your card details stored and don't use Paypal.

I'm not saying nobody has ever accidentally bought a game they didn't mean to, I just think in that circumstance learning not to do that is best served by sucking up the fee for it. People learn real fast when they start losing money.

Having said that, I see why some people may be buying bad games and then feeling cheated. Steam is now selling many unfinished or simply bad games unfortunately, again though, the very best way to learn not to do that is to suffer the consequences, by just buying products without researching what you're spending your money on. There are significant resources on the internet, for discovering the quality of the products you are thinking of buying these days.

Michiel Hendriks
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I accidentally bought a game on steam which required me to install additional spyware and register of an account (in this case uPlay). This was not clearly marked in Steam, it did not contain the "3rd party DRM" market, just a small note in the system requirements.

Trials Evolution does not mention the uPlay requirement in Steam:
Trials Fusion does mention this requirement:

Kujel Selsuru
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Bout bloody time, Valve has been getting away with this terrible policy for way too long. Kudos to the Aussie government for standing up for consumer rights.

Jennis Kartens
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The German VZBV already sued VALVE twice over equal matters and lost each time. I wonder how the apparent differences (the VZBV is no state organ, naturally) in Australia impact the problems and how it may help a worldwide change.

Joel Rattur
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While in principle I'm all for the policy of giving refunds if a product or service isn't what it claims to be. If there's a case to be answered than it should be but in general I think Steam provides a great service, supports indies and sells games for a reasonable price. I think there's much worse abuses of consumer rights here in Australia and bigger fish to fry than Steam's refund policy; A single cable TV provider (Foxtel) getting exclusivity of Game of Thrones (and holding it for a long time) and Itunes paying hardly anything to music artists are a couple that come to mind.

Ben Newbon
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Though I agree that a flat no refunds policy is wrong, I am concerned that digital download platforms could go the way of the appstore/play store where people buy IAPs then claim a refund, whilst still getting full use of the thing they have purchased. This is a terrible blight on mobile developers, who often scarcely have the fund to stay afloat, let alone give away their hard work for free.

Nickesh Chauhan
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Why not just implement a case where you get a no questions asked refund within 3 hours of buying a game? That way you have plenty of time to see if it works and see if you like it or not.

Better still, scale the refund window to the length of the single-player campaign (since some games like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons can be beaten in a couple of hours).

You could make it a condition that IAPs can't be refunded, or once you have purchased one, you relinquish the right to refund.

My point is, there are many ways to make a consumer friendly infrastructure without annoying the developers. A good policy would also boost Steam's reputation, which has been slipping over the past year.

James Berg
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That wouldn't really satisfy customers though - download times vary, players frequently get things in bundles, etc. Finding a 'fair' way to do refunds is hard.

Origin does it well, imo (EA guy here, full disclosure):
You may return EA full game digital downloads (PC/Mac) purchased on Origin for a full refund within 24 hours after you first launch the game, within seven days from your date of purchase or within seven days from the game's release date if you pre-ordered, whichever comes first. This is in addition to your standard return or refund rights.

john smith
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There's no law in Australia where you can get a refund if you change your mind. Some retailers offer this but it's a voluntary thing.

The ACCC action is about a non performing product.

Bannister Nicholas
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So, if Steam claims that this is not 'products sold within Australia' to avoid the Lawsuit, will it mean they have to also stop charging the Australia Tax?