The Steampowered company has introduced arbitration as part of its new dispute resolution scheme.
“On Steam,” says the official announcement, “whenever a customer is unhappy with any transaction, our first goal is to resolve things as quickly as possible through the normal customer support process.” When that doesn’t work, arbitration – and Steam will pay the customers’ costs, so long as they’re “under a certain amount” – is their preferred route from now on. Valve even promises that reimbursement of costs will be provided regardless of the arbitrator’s decision, so long as the claim wasn’t frivolous “or the costs unreasonable.” Unreasonable costs, incidentally, is why class action suits are verboten. Valve thinks they “don’t provide any real benefit to users and instead impose unnecessary expense and delay.”
Why go this route? Well, Valve’s opened new offices in Luxembourg to satisfy its European customers, and part of this is to do with changing their terms for Europe. Valve may also be looking at certain developments, wondering what the future may hold. Inherent in any market is the possibility of a dispute over money and refunds. Better to have a plan for when that happens, than be caught with your pants down; metaphorically speaking, or otherwise.