Valve’s failure to offer Steam refunds to Australian customers in past years may wind up costing it millions.
Valve has taken a lot of flak over the years for its failure to offer refunds on Steam. That flak is likely what led the company to start offering Steam refunds in June of 2015. But before Valve started its refund program, a case was brought against it in Australia.
In 2014, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission filed suit against Valve over its refund policy. The suit says,
“Under the Australian Consumer Law, 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.”
Thanks to the lack of a refund policy prior to 2015, including stating in its Subscriber Agreement that it had a “standalone policy not to give refunds,” the company was found to have violated Australian Consumer Law earlier this year. Valve initially argued that because it was based in Seattle, it shouldn’t be subject to the same standards that Australian companies were held to. The court didn’t find that argument compelling, as Valve was providing a service to Australian customers.
During a hearing last week, Kotaku AU reports that the ACCC put forth its suggestion for Valve’s punishment: a fine of $3 million AUD. Furthermore, the ACCC requested an injunction against Valve to make sure that its current refund policy is in compliance with Australian law.
Valve’s attorneys proposed a fine of $250,000 instead, arguing that there had been “no finding that Valve’s conduct was intended to mislead or deceive consumers.” This suggestion prompted Justice Edleman to ask, “Your proposed penalty of $250,000 isn’t even the price of doing business, it’s next to nothing is it?”
In response to a query from the presiding justice as to whether Valve would resist paying any judgment as a foreign company, the company’s attorney said that there were “no instructions that Valve at this time will resist the enforcement overseas of any of your Honour’s orders.”
While the requested fine of $3 million is unlikely to be levied, it also seems likely that the fine will wind up being higher than Valve’s proposed $250,000. Justice Edleman said that he aimed to hand down his final ruling, covering both penalties and a decision on the injunction, by mid-December or January.