Valve Sued by Australia's Consumer Watchdog Over Refund Policy

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Valve Sued by Australia's Consumer Watchdog Over Refund Policy

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says that Valve's "no refunds" policy is a breach of Australian consumer law.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is Australia's consumer watchdog, keeping an eye on businesses and making sure that they comply with Australia's consumer law. Now, they've set their sights on Valve, specifically, its Steam platform, and its rather harsh "no refunds under any circumstances" policy. The ACCC says that the policy is actually a breach of Australian consumer law, and is taking Valve to court over it.

The ACCC claims Valve "made false or misleading representations to Australian customers of Steam", and that "it is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law for businesses to state that they do not give refunds under any circumstances".

"The Australian Consumer Law applies to any business providing goods or services within Australia," explained ACCC Chairman Rod Sims. "Valve may be an American based company with no physical presence in Australia, but it is carrying on business in Australia by selling to Australian consumers, who are protected by the Australian Consumer Law."

Under the Australian Consumer Law, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their option if a product has a major fault. Indeed, this firm refund stance has allowed Australians to get refunds for faulty video games that did not perform as advertised.

In response to the suit, Valve stated: "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."

A date for the first hearing is set for 7 October 2014 at the Federal Court in Sydney before Justice Jagot.

Source: ACCC via Kotaku AU

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Heh I was wondering when this would come to a head, ACCC was bound to turn their sights on Steam sooner or later. I figured they hadn't as Valve would have known and just given Australian customers the refund, guess they said no to the wrong person who reported them. About time to be honest, heck even EA complies with this law :-/

Christ I wish we had something like this in the States. Well, hope the ACCC wins this one.

erttheking:
Christ I wish we had something like this in the States. Well, hope the ACCC wins this one.

Google and Apple stores all comply, they will 'win' as this is already set in law, their basically giving Valve a chance to accept they stuffed up and fix it. If they don't they will be fined/sued.

RicoADF:

erttheking:
Christ I wish we had something like this in the States. Well, hope the ACCC wins this one.

Google and Apple stores all comply, they will 'win' as this is already set in law, their basically giving Valve a chance to accept they stuffed up and fix it. If they don't they will be fined/sued.

...If one was to move to Australia from the United States, where would you recommend he go?

erttheking:

RicoADF:

erttheking:
Christ I wish we had something like this in the States. Well, hope the ACCC wins this one.

Google and Apple stores all comply, they will 'win' as this is already set in law, their basically giving Valve a chance to accept they stuffed up and fix it. If they don't they will be fined/sued.

...If one was to move to Australia from the United States, where would you recommend he go?

New Zealand

ba dum tsh

erttheking:

...If one was to move to Australia from the United States, where would you recommend he go?

Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne are the largest cities, they have the best employment opportunities and ofcourse the downsides of large cities of being over crowded, expensive etc. Their also the most 'Americanized' which may make it easier for you to adapt to.

Perth and Adelaide are medium sized cities, their more like the traditional Australian towns with people being more polite, more likely to help eachother out and are cheaper places to live. The downside is employment isn't as easy to find however my friends who have moved here have found work so it's an option, personally I'm looking at Adelaide as a possible option to move to.

Darwin and Hobart are smaller cities which are on the 2 extremes, Darwin is in the north and quite hot while Hobart is in the south and cold. Hobart is often said to be the 'retirement' city as it's a quite and beautiful place but with few employment opportunities.

Canberra is our capital and the newest city, founded in 1913. It's laws are quite relaxed and the city is beautiful however being a town built for government the employment opportunities aren't the best (or so I've heard, haven't looked myself).

Guess it depends what your after.

erttheking:
Christ I wish we had something like this in the States. Well, hope the ACCC wins this one.

Didn't work when the Germans tried it... and believe it or not.. Steam already gives refunds...when the product is genuinely unplayable... but not meeting expectations is a nebulous term. If the game is unplayable or misleadingly advertized.. refund, otherwise... yeah.. it's on ye.

Bout fuckin time. Hope they get shafted over this and are forced to actually get a refund policy.

erttheking:

RicoADF:

erttheking:
Christ I wish we had something like this in the States. Well, hope the ACCC wins this one.

Google and Apple stores all comply, they will 'win' as this is already set in law, their basically giving Valve a chance to accept they stuffed up and fix it. If they don't they will be fined/sued.

...If one was to move to Australia from the United States, where would you recommend he go?

I wouldn't move. Australia is currently doing everything it can to be more like the US.

The only reason the ACCC are getting stuck into Valve is because the games industry wields zero political clout in Australia. That's why they're a free kick for the pollies all the time. On the other hand, the banking and finance industries and the supermarket oligarchy rip everyone off blind and get away with it because they're untouchable. The ACCC only gets to chase them for the most obviously ridiculous stuff, like claiming that bread baked 6 months ago in Ireland is 'baked today, sold today'.

Eh? I thought this stopped being an issue a while. I recently noticed that one of the Support FAQs regarding refunds was altered to say "Unless required by local law, we don't give refunds", as opposed to the previous flat-out "no".

That said, I'm glad that Valve has to specifically state that they're obligated to give people in countries that give a shit about consumer rights a refund, instead of leaving it to the savvy consumer to find out for themselves that a TOS simply doesn't trump local law (then again, there's a surprising amount of complete morons to actually believe the complete opposite)

BigTuk:

erttheking:
Christ I wish we had something like this in the States. Well, hope the ACCC wins this one.

Didn't work when the Germans tried it... and believe it or not.. Steam already gives refunds...when the product is genuinely unplayable... but not meeting expectations is a nebulous term. If the game is unplayable or misleadingly advertized.. refund, otherwise... yeah.. it's on ye.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the Germans where asking for the right to RESELL their games to other users. That's another issue entirely from getting a refund.

BigTuk:

Perth and Adelaide are medium sized cities, their more like the traditional Australian towns with people being more polite, more likely to help eachother out and are cheaper places to live.

Honestly, as someone who lives here, Perth is probably one of the most expensive cities to live in almost anywhere. Everything from food to retail to housing has been steadily getting more and more expensive over the years. Right now alcohol insane with most 6-packs costing you $15-$20

erttheking:

...If one was to move to Australia from the United States, where would you recommend he go?

Sydney or Melbourne, At least for Sydney it's easier to get to and from other places. Though Melbourne was voted one of the best cities in the world so there's that going for it.

OT: Eh I like Steam and haven't ever had any problems with them so this court case makes me a tad sad but I understand what they're trying to do so I suppose it's okay. Would be interesting to see how this turns out though I do worry about glitches in the system and this gets implemented, can someone refund a gift? What about refunding a game they got for free? So many questions.

Shamanic Rhythm:

I wouldn't move. Australia is currently doing everything it can to be more like the US.

The only reason the ACCC are getting stuck into Valve is because the games industry wields zero political clout in Australia. That's why they're a free kick for the pollies all the time. On the other hand, the banking and finance industries and the supermarket oligarchy rip everyone off blind and get away with it because they're untouchable. The ACCC only gets to chase them for the most obviously ridiculous stuff, like claiming that bread baked 6 months ago in Ireland is 'baked today, sold today'.

Yes well the librals do love to try and turn us into the US, hopefully they won't survive the next election. I swear their members are in bed with US congress people sometimes.

uguito-93:

Honestly, as someone who lives here, Perth is probably one of the most expensive cities to live in almost anywhere. Everything from food to retail to housing has been steadily getting more and more expensive over the years. Right now alcohol insane with most 6-packs costing you $15-$20

I think you were quoting me, yeah Perth has gone up due to the mining boom, with the increase of people with expendable income comes an increase in price. That said a 6 pack is about the same here in Sydney so prices aren't that bad.

RicoADF:

Perth and Adelaide are medium sized cities, their more like the traditional Australian towns with people being more polite, more likely to help eachother out and are cheaper places to live. The downside is employment isn't as easy to find however my friends who have moved here have found work so it's an option, personally I'm looking at Adelaide as a possible option to move to.
.

huh I've never thourght of Perth in that way

I visited Melbourne not too long ago and I was like "ohhh! culutre! 7/11's!" but eh...places start to feel the same after a while

I feel like perth seems to have a large nerd population but mabye thats just me, there didn't even seem to be a comicbook store in the melbourne CBD whereas here we have like almost 4

erttheking:

...If one was to move to Australia from the United States, where would you recommend he go?

come to Perth

you can rent out my tin shed for cheap!

Vault101:

huh I've never thourght of Perth in that way

One of my friends I've known since 2001 moved out of Sydney due to how busy and rude people are here, she prefers Adelaide but was going to check out Perth. My other friend lived in Perth for awhile and also commented on how much more relaxed it is to Sydney so idk, would like to find out for myself some day.

Yeah well Melbourne is weird :-P I have a few comics and nerd shops within a block of my work's office.

@erttheking: Jesus, if you can navigate the expense required to move here, you're doing mighty well for yourself.

As someone who has been navigating the immigration system in an attempt to get his damn WIFE from the US to Australia, I've found it's going to take in excess of $8000 total just for the privilege of having the one I love.

As a single person, you need to be able to show that you can survive here on your own (bring over $20k) while you get the right to work and find employment.

Luckily, if you're under the age of 30, you can get a Working Holiday visa to the country. If you're over 30 (like my wife) you're shit out of luck without excess cash to support yourself.

OT: This is actually good news. If the product is not fit for purpose, refunds are allowed by Australian law. VALVe should not be exempt for this if they wish to trade in this country.

uguito-93:

BigTuk:

Perth and Adelaide are medium sized cities, their more like the traditional Australian towns with people being more polite, more likely to help eachother out and are cheaper places to live.

Honestly, as someone who lives here, Perth is probably one of the most expensive cities to live in almost anywhere. Everything from food to retail to housing has been steadily getting more and more expensive over the years. Right now alcohol insane with most 6-packs costing you $15-$20

Seems cheap, what brand? Than again I live in NYC.

RicoADF:

One of my friends I've known since 2001 moved out of Sydney due to how busy and rude people are here, she prefers Adelaide but was going to check out Perth. My other friend lived in Perth for awhile and also commented on how much more relaxed it is to Sydney so idk, would like to find out for myself some day.

Yeah well Melbourne is weird :-P I have a few comics and nerd shops within a block of my work's office.

sidney has always given me the impression of a douche place but thats just me (Ive never been there)

while there are definetly differences among citys such generalisations are not always indicative of peoples experience...I mean I've seen hipsters here in perth

1Life0Continues:
@erttheking: Jesus, if you can navigate the expense required to move here, you're doing mighty well for yourself.

As someone who has been navigating the immigration system in an attempt to get his damn WIFE from the US to Australia, I've found it's going to take in excess of $8000 total just for the privilege of having the one I love.

As a single person, you need to be able to show that you can survive here on your own (bring over $20k) while you get the right to work and find employment.
.

ooooorrrr he can come over and I'll hide him in my shed for half the price

Valve can only hop around this issue that long before they have to bite the bullet and start offering refunds.

RicoADF:
Heh I was wondering when this would come to a head, ACCC was bound to turn their sights on Steam sooner or later. I figured they hadn't as Valve would have known and just given Australian customers the refund, guess they said no to the wrong person who reported them. About time to be honest, heck even EA complies with this law :-/

Actually a lot of this is probably going to come down to how much STEAM wants to play hardball. They are a digital distribution service, and as a general rule returning a digital product is a touchy subject, as nothing prevents you from say playing the game, or simply deciding you don't like it/suffer buyers remorse and then return it. Furthermore while it was a bad idea, STEAM has started doing a big business by selling/distributing unfinished games in alpha and beta states, as much as I agree they shouldn't do that, but it is part of their model now, and they could arguably be made to refund money from nearly every early access title they sold.

STEAM's likely counter move in this case is going to be to tell Australia to blow off, and deal with it, if they don't, STEAM will leave. At the end of the day this is going to hurt Australian consumers more than their long standing policies have, since Australia has had a notoriously hard time getting games in the past, and I've heard some Aussies describe STEAM in terms reserved from angels descending from the heavens when it comes to gaming. EA still generally wants to sell physical products in Australia, console games and the like, but right now STEAM doesn't do any kind of physical business, it's entirely digital.

What's more the internet being what it is, once they "officially" leave Australia it just means that Aussies will likely still keep buying STEAM games, finding ways around whatever mechanisms the government puts into place to stop them. Especially if Valve helps from that end. Sure technically one can argue "The Australian Government will go after Gabe" but I just don't see it happening. I mean look at the fiasco involved in getting Kim Dotcom, and he doesn't have half the swing and good will of Gabe Newell and Valve, especially seeing as Gabe isn't even really stealing anything, he's just violating internet control. It's not like crap has happened to China and it's done far worse things across
all areas of commerce.

That said, it's not likely to be any kind of fight like that. At the end of the day, I think Australia needs STEAM more than STEAM needs Australia. Especially given the amount of products people have purchased that are already dependent on the service. Basically your looking at a real world continental sequel to "Children Of Steam".

Don't get me wrong, I agree 100% with the principles of Australia's consumer policies, and I do think there should be mechanisms in place for digital refunds. Of course at the same time I understand why digital distributors, given the current technology, do not want to offer refunds. I'd like to see Australia win, and some kind of massive wave of pro-consumer policies eminate outwards from the land down under, and bring reforms to digital businesses (with many more to come, I have never been a big fan of Digital Distribution, preferring "disc in hand" I simply suffer it because I have to) but I don't see it happening. The most Australia can do is tell Gabe "if you don't comply, you can't do business here" at which point in weighing that precedent compared to the value of Australian customers (considering the amount of money he could lose here especially if the rulings turn STEAM into what amounts to a free game service due to forced returns) I think there is a good chance he'll just leave. STEAM doesn't have other services on the same level to compete with at the moment.

Therumancer:

Actually a lot of this is probably going to come down to how much STEAM wants to play hardball. They are a digital distribution service, and as a general rule returning a digital product is a touchy subject, as nothing prevents you from say playing the game, or simply deciding you don't like it/suffer buyers remorse and then return it. Furthermore while it was a bad idea, STEAM has started doing a big business by selling/distributing unfinished games in alpha and beta states, as much as I agree they shouldn't do that, but it is part of their model now, and they could arguably be made to refund money from nearly every early access title they sold.

You could say the same about physical games since they can be easily copied and returned, the law still requires they be refunded if there's a fault or product doesn't meet advertised features. The fact it's digital doesn't magically absolve them, the fact Apple and Google are both held accountable shows this is not magically immune.

Therumancer:
The most Australia can do is tell Gabe "if you don't comply, you can't do business here" at which point in weighing that precedent compared to the value of Australian customers (considering the amount of money he could lose here especially if the rulings turn STEAM into what amounts to a free game service due to forced returns) I think there is a good chance he'll just leave. STEAM doesn't have other services on the same level to compete with at the moment.

Err no, what they would do is fine the company and keep fining them until the do comply. Our trade deals with the US means that such fines would be enforced and they would be required to follow our laws, I had to learn about this when I did a business course. In the same way that the US would ask us to close down a pirate website hosted in Australia the US would have to follow through with a request from our nation regarding one of it's companies breaching our laws.

Steam would be making enough money that setting up a refund system for faulty or mislabeled games can be refunded, seriously if EA can justify the cost then Valve can as well. They've just been lazy because they could get away with it, now they've been called out they will have to fix it.

Oh man it would be pretty sweet if I could get refunds on steam games I really regret buying; duke nukem forever was broken awful garbage certainly not as advertised at all.

But I can't see this really working out for aussie consumers in any major way, valve would literally have to make refunds exclusively available to aussies and that'd be kind of unfair for the rest of the world. And from what I understand digital transaction refunds (especially those of products bought many years prior) are notoriously difficult to make happen between paypal and credit card bs etc.

Therumancer:
-snip-

Im so tired of this argument. Do you know how pathetically easy it would be for any system to notice people abusing a return system? I honestly mean pathetically easy too.

Even ignoring that, so the fuck what?

I've used the argument again and again and no one seems to care, but I'll do it again.

Amazon allows you to return any game, for any reason, for a full refund. Whether it be a disc game or a digital game. You ask for a refund and you have your refund. They don't suspect that you're being a dick and trying to score a free game, they just assume that not being a dick to you is more important than the possibility that you're tryin to pull a fast one on them.

That's all this comes down to. Do you treat your customers like customers and give them the respect they deserve or do you treat them all like potential dicks (criminals) and shut the whole thing down on the off chance that people try to abuse the system?

shintakie10:

Therumancer:
-snip-

Im so tired of this argument. Do you know how pathetically easy it would be for any system to notice people abusing a return system? I honestly mean pathetically easy too.

Even ignoring that, so the fuck what?

I've used the argument again and again and no one seems to care, but I'll do it again.

Amazon allows you to return any game, for any reason, for a full refund. Whether it be a disc game or a digital game. You ask for a refund and you have your refund. They don't suspect that you're being a dick and trying to score a free game, they just assume that not being a dick to you is more important than the possibility that you're tryin to pull a fast one on them.

That's all this comes down to. Do you treat your customers like customers and give them the respect they deserve or do you treat them all like potential dicks (criminals) and shut the whole thing down on the off chance that people try to abuse the system?

Amazon is also a much bigger kind of company than Valve and software is only one of many products they sell. If they run into problems they can stop carrying it, and I won't slow them down all that much in the big picture. On the other hand STEAM is all about digital distribution, they run into a problem with that, and that's their entire business.

Also the problem with "seeing people abusing the system" is that they will rarely acknowledge it, and when the law gives them the right to return those games, if they are shut off and complain the company doing it has to potentially prove they weren't discriminating.

Not to mention the point that you seem to be missing, which is that especially now, Valve is making a business out of intentionally selling broken, defective, and incomplete products. Basically they are allowing "early access" shovelware some of which might not even be functional to be sold on their platform. People have complained about this being a customer abuse and disrespectful, but well... it's still going on, probably because Valve makes good money off of doing it. That's part of their business and by definition these Australian laws would allow someone to return almost any Early Access game at any time.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with the principles involved, I actually think digital customers should have more rights, and that I'd like to see Australia's policies work not just there but globally, but I doubt it's going to happen. I could be wrong, but if pushed, I think STEAM will just leave and not operate in Australia.

Therumancer:
STEAM's likely counter move in this case is going to be to tell Australia to blow off, and deal with it, if they don't, STEAM will leave.

So what you're saying is, the Australian market means so little to Steam that they'll judge the resulting loss of further sales and bad publicity, not to mention potentially violating trade agreements we have with the US, to be worth preserving a few refunds.

Considering the way Apple, Adobe and Microsoft quietly buckled when the government applied the blowtorch to them over their bullshit regional markups in Australia, I doubt Steam is going to be any different.

What's more the internet being what it is, once they "officially" leave Australia it just means that Aussies will likely still keep buying STEAM games, finding ways around whatever mechanisms the government puts into place to stop them. Especially if Valve helps from that end. Sure technically one can argue "The Australian Government will go after Gabe" but I just don't see it happening. I mean look at the fiasco involved in getting Kim Dotcom, and he doesn't have half the swing and good will of Gabe Newell and Valve, especially seeing as Gabe isn't even really stealing anything, he's just violating internet control. It's not like crap has happened to China and it's done far worse things across
all areas of commerce.

Dude, the ACCC doesn't even have enough power to crack down on the obvious cartels operating in Australia, let alone deploy a commando team into America to extradite Gabe Newell. Although if they did, it would be hilarious to see Gabe confronted with a real life Saxton Hale.

It's about time someone had a go at Valve. They might be the besy place to get PC games, but their customer support and returns 'policy' is fucking atrocious.

Shamanic Rhythm:

Dude, the ACCC doesn't even have enough power to crack down on the obvious cartels operating in Australia, let alone deploy a commando team into America to extradite Gabe Newell. Although if they did, it would be hilarious to see Gabe confronted with a real life Saxton Hale.

We'd probably just ask the US to grab Gabe for us :-P

captain underpants:
It's about time someone had a go at Valve. They might be the besy place to get PC games, but their customer support and returns 'policy' is fucking atrocious.

The funny thing is that every other online store does offer returns so even if the ACCC didn't go after them the competition alone would eventually force their hand.

Well, I'm not against this.

I mean I love steam, don't get me wrong, but you'd figure something for a game that you find to be absolute garbage would be worth getting a return policy. I had that issue with Brink. Hated it, wanted my money back, couldn't get it.

RicoADF:

Therumancer:

Actually a lot of this is probably going to come down to how much STEAM wants to play hardball. They are a digital distribution service, and as a general rule returning a digital product is a touchy subject, as nothing prevents you from say playing the game, or simply deciding you don't like it/suffer buyers remorse and then return it. Furthermore while it was a bad idea, STEAM has started doing a big business by selling/distributing unfinished games in alpha and beta states, as much as I agree they shouldn't do that, but it is part of their model now, and they could arguably be made to refund money from nearly every early access title they sold.

You could say the same about physical games since they can be easily copied and returned, the law still requires they be refunded if there's a fault or product doesn't meet advertised features. The fact it's digital doesn't magically absolve them, the fact Apple and Google are both held accountable shows this is not magically immune.

Therumancer:
The most Australia can do is tell Gabe "if you don't comply, you can't do business here" at which point in weighing that precedent compared to the value of Australian customers (considering the amount of money he could lose here especially if the rulings turn STEAM into what amounts to a free game service due to forced returns) I think there is a good chance he'll just leave. STEAM doesn't have other services on the same level to compete with at the moment.

Err no, what they would do is fine the company and keep fining them until the do comply. Our trade deals with the US means that such fines would be enforced and they would be required to follow our laws, I had to learn about this when I did a business course. In the same way that the US would ask us to close down a pirate website hosted in Australia the US would have to follow through with a request from our nation regarding one of it's companies breaching our laws.

Steam would be making enough money that setting up a refund system for faulty or mislabeled games can be refunded, seriously if EA can justify the cost then Valve can as well. They've just been lazy because they could get away with it, now they've been called out they will have to fix it.

Actually your missing the point. If STEAM decides to just leave, there is nothing for them to fine, they will just choose not to operate in Australia. If they are going to contest this seriously, that is going to be the bottom line.

See, even though you can copy console games and such, the thing is companies like EA, Google, etc.. do more than just operate a digital distribution service for niche products (games), where that is the sum total of what Steam does. Those other companies look a their digital marketplace and figure that even if they take a bath there, or even shut down digital distribution, other things they do in Australia makes it worth while. Gabe just wants to sell the one thing and do it in a specific way though, he takes a bath from distributing games digitally and there is nothing else for him since that's all he does.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with Australia in principle, I just don't think it can force the issue on STEAM if Gabe decides he doesn't want to deal with it. They can't stop Gabe from leaving if he thinks it's not going to be cost effective to follow those laws. If Steam isn't operating in Australia anymore there is nothing to levy fines on. Besides even if Gabe plays hardball back and say distributes anyway one way or another (by making it easy for Aussies to get onto his service anyway), the guy is like crazy rich, and it's nice to point to what laws and trade agreements say, but when it comes to the big corporate types that never really works out. The US and New Zealand have agreements to for example, and look at the crap with Kim Dotcom as I pointed out, legally he should be facing trial in the US, but New Zealand has been screwing around, largely because Kim is rich and powerful. I'm saying this not because it's a good thing, but because I have absolutely zero faith in any governments to keep big business in line. I mean heck, The US can't even get Burger King to pay it's taxes properly, we literally just let it use a Tax Inversion loophole to avoid all accountability by buying a company in Canada and setting up it's new HQs there. It's a different situation that we're talking about, but the point is that when a company gets big enough, it becomes increasingly unlikely to be able to make them do anything they don't want to do.

Look at it this way, STEAM is already making a business out of specifically selling people faulty and messed up games. They call it "Early Access". Despite complaints about how stupid it is to sell bugged and unfinished produced intentionally, Valve keeps right on doing it because they are obviously making money at it. At the end of the day Australia is basically saying "hey you'd have to give refunds on all these games if someone complained" and obviously that's something Valve isn't going to be friendly towards... especially seeing as this is apparently going to court, as opposed to Valve just saying "sorry, we'll follow the law and grand refunds".

As far as companies in the game industry go, Valve is not bad in comparative terms, but it's not angelic either. As a business their reputation has been rather mixed, you hear very diverse things about people's experiences in dealing with them when they have a problem. As Jimquisition has pointed out, it's been shafting people with non-refundable, broken, games for a while now (Jim has gone off on Earth Access and Greenlight several times to my memory) it's a key part of their current business strategy.

I'd really like Australia to win, and heck for their attitudes about treating customers well and giving refunds when it comes to digital products and services to be universal, I'm just a pessimist, and I don't think it would happen. Largely because I can't see what's in it for Gabe, and he's already fighting apparently. If the whole argument about "being decent to your customers" mattered to him on this subject we wouldn't be at this point. That said, I don't know him, and as I've said before, a lot of it could also just be legitimate concern over that system being abused, he doesn't exactly have a lot of other interests in Australia that can make up a loss on STEAM, it's not like other big companies that have their fingers in more than one pie.

Now had Australia waited until Gabe released "The Steam Box" or some of these other physical projects we've heard about for years, it might have more leverage, since Gabe would have more than one interest in Australia's market since he'd be moving hardware too.

Also while it's not politic to point it out, look at all the whining Aussies have done about gaming as well, getting this late, etc... STEAM has done a lot to get Australia more current when it comes to games. Again, what happens if STEAM decides to leave. To your average Australian, what's more important, potential refunds, or losing all of their current STEAM games and not being able to buy more via STEAM? It's not like there is any competition on the same level. If this goes to court, and Gabe decides to play hardball, I wouldn't be surprised if you see lots of Australians begging the government to not enforce the law or grant an exemption specifically so STEAM will stay. That's one of the things that has always scared me about this whole digital distribution idea, the more you use one of these services, the more they have you by the short and curlies.

Therumancer:
*SNIP*

I understand where your coming from however I disagree with your assessment on the situation/how it'll play out. Reasons are:
- The cost of implimenting the return policy is far less than losing the customers
- Europe courts are also ruling that Steam needs to allow refunds and even resales of games, so they'd lose more than just Australian sales
- Even if they were to follow through the consumer backlash would be large and they'd lose customers to their competitors

Overall I'd say it'd be in their benefit to comply, I'm not saying your scenario couldn't play out I just think it's too cynical/negative and would prefer to look at a more positive outcome as the likely result. Especially if Gabe is pro consumer as people all claim he is, imagine the backlash if suddenly all the Aussies (and maybe even Europeans) lost their games. It'd put a big question mark on their remaining customers regarding trusting their game library with steam.

One Steam coupon for "a shitty indie game you've never heard of" says that Valve won't change a thing and Steam will just wind up being banned in Australia.

I have a great deal of confidence in my country's government, you see.

BanicRhys:
One Steam coupon for "a shitty indie game you've never heard of" says that Valve won't change a thing and Steam will just wind up being banned in Australia.

I have a great deal of confidence in my country's government, you see.

So if I'm right you'll send me an indie game? Sure your on :-)

Shamanic Rhythm:

Therumancer:
STEAM's likely counter move in this case is going to be to tell Australia to blow off, and deal with it, if they don't, STEAM will leave.

So what you're saying is, the Australian market means so little to Steam that they'll judge the resulting loss of further sales and bad publicity, not to mention potentially violating trade agreements we have with the US, to be worth preserving a few refunds.

Considering the way Apple, Adobe and Microsoft quietly buckled when the government applied the blowtorch to them over their bullshit regional markups in Australia, I doubt Steam is going to be any different.

What's more the internet being what it is, once they "officially" leave Australia it just means that Aussies will likely still keep buying STEAM games, finding ways around whatever mechanisms the government puts into place to stop them. Especially if Valve helps from that end. Sure technically one can argue "The Australian Government will go after Gabe" but I just don't see it happening. I mean look at the fiasco involved in getting Kim Dotcom, and he doesn't have half the swing and good will of Gabe Newell and Valve, especially seeing as Gabe isn't even really stealing anything, he's just violating internet control. It's not like crap has happened to China and it's done far worse things across
all areas of commerce.

Dude, the ACCC doesn't even have enough power to crack down on the obvious cartels operating in Australia, let alone deploy a commando team into America to extradite Gabe Newell. Although if they did, it would be hilarious to see Gabe confronted with a real life Saxton Hale.

Huh? By "Go After Gabe" I didn't mean commandoes, I meant trying to get him extradited or made to face charges/pay fines if he decided to say run STEAM as a sort of illegal service after officially leaving. The point being Australia has trade agreements and legal agreements with the US and everything, but look at how well this went in reverse with New Zealand and Kim Dotcom. When the person involved in rich enough, it's not an easy thing to do, and really, Kim, who has done worse things than what we're talking about, actually has a lot of fans/defenders. I'd LOVE to see commandoes going around nailing corrupt and callous business people and those with unfair trade practices, we should all probably start with China as one group most of the western world can probably agree on... but it's not going to happen. I'd be cheering especially loudly for some of the obnoxious CEOs infesting America being dragged off as well.

As I said in other responses, a lot of those other companies that backed down were doing more than just digital distribution, they were involved in other aspects of business, including selling physical products. What's more none of them were running things like STEAM's "Early Access" and "Greenlight" programs where the whole idea is to allow games that are unfinished, buggy, messes to be sold in that state. It's a frequent source of Jimquisition's rants.

See, those other companies are mostly in a position where they can risk losing most if not all of their digital sales, or even closing off DD to Australia and focusing on physical products if push comes to shove. Valve on the other hand exclusively runs digital distribution, there isn't anything else to it. What's more we're not talking about a *few* refunds here, especially in light of things like the "Early Access" games, which they apparently keep doing because their cut is worth more than the amount of people it slots off. Also consider that nowadays with games being short some of the can be beaten very quickly, for example something like "Five Nights at Freddy's" might take you 90 minutes to beat even if you have no clue what your doing to begin with (going by various "Let's Play" runs and such). So basically let's say someone buys that, plays it for 90 minutes and beats it and then decides "wow, that sucked, it was only 90 minutes of gameplay" and then returns it for "reasons", that's neither fair to STEAM or the guys who developed it. You can say "this would be caught easily" but understand STEAM can't even police the games they are selling, and fix people's spelling errors in the sales videos and storefront pages (to very humorous effect) it's not like they are going to be able to review every case here, or fairly so "no, we're not going to refund you because you got the whole experience you paid for".

As I said, I don't think it's a case where STEAM will actually fight some kind of war and win (the whole thing about them selling to Australia unofficially was purely hypothetical), I think STEAM will just leave. At the end of the day all of those other companies that backed down that you mentioned are not worth STEAM in the one area it caters to: distributing games. STEAM goes, and Australia will be in a really rough place for games again. Given that there are no other competing distributors on this level, it's a case where Australia needs STEAM more than STEAM needs Australia if Gabe decides the annoyances outweigh the money he's going to make.

Do not misunderstand me also, I'd actually like to see Australia's policies implemented on a global level, I've long felt that there needs to be more limitations on digital distribution, including things like refunds, *BUT* I'm enough of a pessimist that when I look at this I just can't see this happening here, because at the end of the day there is nothing in it for Valve, and they are a business, and are the same business that have been callously pushing this whole Early Access thing and flooding us with garbage. They are nice, but largely in comparison to other gaming companies, who as a whole are pretty freaking deplorable. Furthermore they have us all by the wrinklies because the more games you've bought from them and the more of your property they control, the less you can really oppose them. I mean seriously, all high principles aside, if Gabe said "grant us an exemption to this law or we're leaving" how many gamers who use Steam would actually want to see them go, not many, because they all own property they need STEAM to use. Sure, this might not make Gabe popular, but the bottom line is he's still holding their virtual property on his service. If he plays it right, I could easily see him getting the same people these laws serve the interests of, demanding the government drop the laws...

But also understand, part of my pessimism is that I saw things like this happening, which is why I've opposed digitial distribution since the inception. I merely use it because I have no choice. Right now I own a stupid number of games on STEAM some of which I've never played. I'd probably do a lot to defend that service even if it was objectively wrong, simply because my own property is at stake, something happens to STEAM, my digital property goes away with it.

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