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Valve Loses Australian Court Battle Over Steam ( 178

angry tapir writes: Valve Software has lost court action launched against it by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The Australian court case centered on the refund policies of Valve Software's Steam digital distribution service. Some of Steam's refund policies contradicted the statutory guarantees of the Australian Consumer Law, the court found. A hearing on penalties is yet to be held.
Such "false or misleading representations about guarantees" 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. Valve has contested ACCC's arguments on a number of grounds.
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Valve Loses Australian Court Battle Over Steam

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  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @11:13PM (#51804989) Homepage

    It's an attempt by corporations to rewrite/bypass existing laws, and prevent you from having any recourse by forcing you to agree to arbitration (conducted by someone friendly to the outcome of the corporation).

    Despite the idiocy we've been seeing as courts (*cough* American *cough*) decide it's OK for companies to fuck over consumers with bullshit EULAs which skirt around the law, I'm glad to see some common sense.

    Of course, expect the next round of "trade negotiations" (*cough* American *cough*) to work to undermine this.

    Because, let's face it, America is all lubed up and on the payroll of multinational corporations.

    • by WarJolt ( 990309 )

      Many EULAs are so poorly written I question how enforceable they are. Who has time to read hundreds of pages of poorly written dribble? Can't we just all agree on a few well written EULAs and force companies to pick from those?

      • Who has time to read hundreds of pages of poorly written dribble?

        Apparently, not Congresspeople. "We have to pass the bill in order to find out what's in it," like it's a Cracker Jack prize.

        • by Jahoda ( 2715225 )
          Dude, what is the deal with this around here??? It's DRIVEL. It is not, and has never been DRIBBLE.
      • Many EULAs are so poorly written I question how enforceable they are.

        Ever since this happened, I always take the time to read them to see if they try to slip in any kind of weird, horrifying or funny shit. []

        Have not found anything noteworthy yet though besides the usual "Fuck consumer rights, sign here to hand them over".

        The Itunes user agreement was kind of amusing. Something along the lines of "By using this software, you agree not to use it for developing biological or nuclear weapons".

        • I've never understood why legal banter always has to use the numeral and then toss the word in brackets beside it. Are they implying that I need to multiply the number by itself? "I hereby declare that I give 3 (three) fucks" so are you saying you give me 3 fucks? Or are you saying you give me 3(3) = 9 fucks? Please elaborate.
          • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

            I've never understood why legal banter always has to use the numeral and then toss the word in brackets beside it. Are they implying that I need to multiply the number by itself? "I hereby declare that I give 3 (three) fucks" so are you saying you give me 3 fucks? Or are you saying you give me 3(3) = 9 fucks? Please elaborate.

            Clarity. Let's say the thing said "I give you 3 fucks". Now, due to a printing error, it looks like it reads "I give you 8 fucks" (or 6, or 9 which could also be plausible). Well crap,

      • by ( 4475953 )
        Here is what everyone should do (unless you absolutely need the product):

        Print out the EULA and mark all passages you would like to change clearly. Indicate the changes you would like to suggest, point to reformulations and strike through passages you do not agree with. Make your changes reasonable. The last thing is important, don't make jokes. Put the revised EULA in an envelope, address it to the company's customer service, and in a short polite covering letter point out that (a) you do not agree wi

        • I had a friend who'd buy software for his business with checks. On the back of the check was a notice saying that cashing the check was agreeing that the software was up to certain standards. He told me nobody ever balked at it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well outside of the US, EULA's aren't enforceable if they directly or indirectly attempt to bypass your local laws. This is true in Canada, where companies who don't have regional EULA's suddenly find themselves up shits creek and have injunctions slapped against them.

      • What really needs to happen with contracts of adhesion is more like how in-person consumer rights are handled in some places: not only can contracts not override certain key protections, but the stores are required by law to display certain information about this at points of sale, and including certain anti-consumer terms in contracts is itself illegal. Evil terms aren't just unenforceable at this point, you can be actively punished for even trying to include them, so you can't just try to scare consumers

        • At least we need a law making contracts of adhesion invalid if required after the point of purchase (or, at the very least, mandating refunds of purchase price for such products). The idea that, after spending money on something and doing something that makes a refund impossible, I have to agree to further terms, is ridiculous.

          • I don't know where you're from or what your law might be, but where I am terms stated after the point of purchase normally are unenforceable, other things being equal. To be part of a contract there would need to be something in it for both sides, and since the sale has already been completed at that point, there's no reason for the purchaser to accept additional terms without some form of consideration in return.

            The catch with a lot of modern technologies is that the additional consideration doesn't have t

            • I'm from the backward country known as the US.

              I believe I can legally install and use lawfully obtained software, and make any copies needed, under US law, so I don't need additional permission to use the software (which doesn't stop people from sticking in a EULA step, but which does mean there isn't any consideration).

              What I've never gotten a straight answer to when I had the opportunity to ask in relevant forums, is what an enforceable EULA gives the vendor that copyright law doesn't. There's a few

    • We enshrined them (and all arbitration agreements) into the Rule of Law. Our highest court just rule the law was valid too.

      Our schools are churning out lawyers like crazy because it's cheap for the University but expensive for the Student and our ruling class took note of a potential glut of people with the means to fire off Class Action Lawsuits. So they bought themselves a nice law. I suspect they're planning to do the same in the rest of the world if they haven't already (or don't just plain own the
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Except it's not common's a right. You cannot sign away 'rights' under Australian law...regardless of how stupid you are.

      As I understand can in the US of A.

      In Australia (and probably most other "sane" legal systems), the offending clauses get structure from the agreements, leaving the remaining Contract clauses in place.

      So...signing things like can't take work for the same industry if changing jobs doesn't hold either to individuals... corporates poaching...between corporates...yeah.

      • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <> on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @04:52AM (#51805933) Homepage

        But because the rest of the contract remains in force, companies have no reason not to pack a contract full of unenforceable garbage... Many people simply aren't aware of their rights and will follow the unenforceable bits out of fear.

        Adding clauses which are unenforceable should be seen as bad faith and result in penalties for anyone presenting such contracts.

      • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
        You can't sign away rights in the USA either, but there are only a few "rights" and you can be sued for civil matters if you can show damages. An example is an NDA. You have a right to speech, but you signed an NDA, and if your speech that you agreed to no do causes damages to the other party, then that party can sue you for said damages.

        Being able to sue for damages is a blessing and a curse. It's great for situations where someone didn't technically break the law, but they did hurt you. At the same time
    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      Preach it!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Australia is on the right side of a video game-related story...

    • It was bound to happen eventually. As an Australian though, it would be nice for the ACCC to deal with the price fixing issue too. But one thing at a time :-D
    • Honestly, I'd give up refunds if I could pay US prices for games. I'm a little worried that this will now give publishers a legitimate reason to charge Aussies more.
      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Honestly, I'd give up refunds if I could pay US prices for games. I'm a little worried that this will now give publishers a legitimate reason to charge Aussies more.

        Uh, it's already WHY publishers charge more! It's why even physical goods sold in Australia cost more.

        I mean, people love to complain about EU and AU pricing, but often it isn't as extortionate as it seems - sure that Apple MacBook costs $300 more, but that's because you're forced to buy the extended warranty. 2-3 year coverage, so they build th

  • by gringer ( 252588 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @11:42PM (#51805135)

    More punny title: Valve Loses Steam in Australian Court Battle

    • My first reaction to the headline was "diddums, poor Valve."

      Then I wondered if Umbrella might take legal action against Rain.

  • Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shione ( 666388 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @11:44PM (#51805145) Journal

    I like steam but this is good that the ACCC took them to court and won. Their refund policy is BS. I bought payday 2 ( [] ) when it had just came out for something like US$25 full price. I trusted the word of the developer who said it would NEVER have microtransactions ( [] ) in the game. Those scumbag developers then added in microtransactions anyway turning it on a P2W game. I tried multiple times through steam to get it refunded and each time I got a template response from steam denying the refund. If this was sold in the shops in Australia it would be ILLEGAL because it was not what I bought nor was it advertised as such to have microtransactions.

    I will never buy a overkill game again.

    • Re:Good (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nnull ( 1148259 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @02:15AM (#51805605)
      Steam definitely has a ridiculous return policy for Americans. It's absolute absurdity. Even Amazon has a better return policy for games than Steam. So much so I now outright refuse to preorder any games or even buy any games on release thanks to Steam.
    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      You wouldn't get a refund on that at normal shop either. It is not even bait and switch, unless the game stops working for you. ie your forced to use said micro transactions just to play. You can't claim that it is not fair anymore otherwise you just claim your allowed a refund just because you suck at the game (probably closer to the truth). Your beef isn't even with steam it is with the devs of the game, and well you should have read that EULA there as well. Finally how many hours did you play the game? O
  • by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @11:53PM (#51805179)

    What I absolutely love about steam in particular is they grant themselves the right to "alter the deal". []

    Lets say you have spent a fortune on steam games.

    They decide they are big enough they can do whatever they want and decide to start charging monthly fees or install spyware uploading contents of your computer to the New York Times or perhaps they just decide they don't want to support you anymore and unilaterally shut down the service.

    If you don't like the new deal and don't accept it your account is shut down and you lose access to everything you ever paid for without any compensation or recourse. You of course also "agreed" to submit to binding arbitration.

    This crap is why I don't play games anymore. It just isn't any fun when everyone has this kind of contempt for their customers trying to fuck people over asserting they don't own anything and have no rights.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @12:30AM (#51805273)

      This crap is why I don't play games anymore. It just isn't any fun when everyone has this kind of contempt for their customers trying to fuck people over asserting they don't own anything and have no rights.

      Not everyone. Buy from GOG instead of Steam. They'll sell you DRM-free plain old locally playable games, no network-permission needed to play, no ability for anyone to switch off your game collection later on. They'll work as long as you have a PC or something that can emulate one.

      You want that model to succeed? Buy your games there. They don't have as big a collection as Steam, yet, but it's growing fast. If everyone makes sure that business model succeeds, then game companies will be forced to support it, because that's where the buyers are.

      On the other hand, if everybody keeps buying lock-in and DRM ala Steam, well... that's what you're gonna get. Put your money towards the world you want to see. Make sure companies selling DRM-free games succeed, and those with needless online activation fail. Game studios need your money to stay in business, but you don't need their games. That means you have all the power, and they have none. Use it wisely.

      • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

        They don't have as big a collection as Steam, yet, but it's growing fast.

        Is this a copy-paste from 2008?

        • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

          I'm sorry a moderator feels that this is a flame bait, but, seriously. I'm pretty certain I've seen a very similar message posted back in 2008. Is this now an Internet meme I haven't familiarized myself with?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I mostly buy my games via the Humble Store which offers both DRM-free downloads and Steam keys. I usually use the game primarily through Steam so I don't have to handle updates myself, but I still can always go download the latest DRM-free version whenever I want.
        • Lots of games also don't actually rely on Steam for DRM and are playable without launching the Steam client.

    • DRM free my friend. Works for me. I have never installed steam and I never willl. appears to have all my gaming needs (when we get the odd break from life..) and I can find no funny business in their installers. . humblebundle is long as you avoid the steam crap (and especially the ubisoft drm. While humblebundle are mostly steam poster boys, they do sometimes have drm free bundles are truly a bargain (sometimes mixed with games that are steam only for which I consistently give $1..serves
    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      Lots of contracts have "the right to alter the deal". Everyone from google to blizzard does it. Just because you don't real the EULA doesn't mean it is not there.
  • After over a month asking in a support ticket for them to actually let me get into the store, I've realized that their "move the desk" policy is killing them.

    There is no tech support.

    There is no testing.

    But there is a lot of "ignoring the problem" going on.

    Stop investing in steam, start ignoring their games.

  • So naturally the same standard applies to Microsoft?

    • Re:Microsoft? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @01:26AM (#51805449)

      Yes, it does. Microsoft products sold in Australia have often come with a little flyer that specifies the different protections Australian consumers are entitled to outside their usual EULA.

    • Yes. Microsoft has been taken to town by the ACCC over and over again about their return and warranty policies.

      I remember years ago ACCC action in Australia was the reason why warranties were extended to cover red-ringing XBox360s. The Australian "Fit for service" and "expected performance" clauses were read in a way that implied a console should last at least until the next model is released and their short warranty period was therefore invalid for what was clearly a manufacturing flaw.

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @03:25AM (#51805781)

    I like the way Valve had argued that they weren't doing business in Australia and as such didn't need to comply because all they did was provide an online portal.

    An online portal that accepts Australian dollars.
    An online portal that will restrict titles for Australia by geolocation.
    An online portal that WILL SEND YOU A CUSTOM VERSION OF A GAME FOR AUSTRALIA to meet Australian content requirements (looking at you Left4Dead 2) that was only released in Australia initially.

    You can't argue that you're not doing business in Australia while at the same time creating (not even releasing but actually creating) specific content to comply directly with local requirements.

    • Yep. They were grasping at straws, thinking they were above the law. And this is what happens.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Just wait until the EU comes after them. EU law states all software can be resold, including digital only. Strange that Valve, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Sony still won't offer a single method for doing so, therefore breaking the law as there is no mechanism to bypass their DRM. Seeing as these massive global tax dodging corporations are the gatekeepers for the keys, and no one else can transfer them, they cannot deny they are not preventing private sales.

        • Just wait until the EU comes after them.

          Don't get me wrong I love the EU laws, but the laws have little teeth without some well funded entity to back them. Associations like the ACCC exist to fight the fights that consumers in Australia can't afford to. That's not to say they are a free lawyer, but they exist to ensure that the bastards are kept honest. It's the same reason there's no "unlimited" advertising in Australia if there is a terms of use that defines "unlimited" to be anything other than what the dictionary states.

    • The decision: []

      The judge deemed them to be doing business in Australia because:

      A) Valve had CDN's in Australia, a fair number of them
      B) Valve allowed Australian customers to access support channels
      C) Steam had 2.2 Million Australian Users
      D) Valve knew the users were in Australia
      E) Steam prices games differently in Australia, or sometimes doesn't make them available at all
      F) Valve pays for it's Australian servers from an Australian bank account

      • ... and they tried to argue "not doing business in Australia" anyway? Jeez, whatever Valve is paying their lawyers, it's clearly way too much (or not enough, if they couldn't be bothered to hire lawyers that can find their ass with both hands and a mirror)...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As one of the few people who actually read the Valve EULA: All of the parts of the EULA that tries to take away consumer protection has a little text on the end, something like "except as outlined in 13" (or whatever the number was).

    Down near the end is part 13, which says something like "if you're in the European Union, you can ignore these parts".

    With this court case, part 13 will have to be changed to "European Union or Australia".

  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @05:30AM (#51806015) Journal

    Looking at the other comments on this, I see some pretty polarised views; either "corporations are evil, let me get a refund on anything I want whenever I want it" or "regulation is evil, let companies do what they want". I think both of those are missing the point somewhat.

    The area of refunds for downloadable game purchases is one that a lot of effort has gone into over the last few years and nobody has yet quite found a solution that seems to work fairly for both the public and developers.

    Actually, it needs to be acknowledged that things have moved on a long way from a couple of years ago. You can actually routinely get refunds now from the main online PC game stores, provided you meet specific conditions. What's not clear is whether this is down to the threat of governmental action (the EU had been making loud noises) or market forces. In particular, when EA startled everybody by announcing what was actually a fairly ambitious refund policy for Origin, it forced competitors like Steam to up their game and follow suit.

    Steam's current policy is that, outside of exceptional circumstances, you can get a refund without question on a game which has been purchased within the last two weeks (or which has been released within the last two weeks if you pre-ordered) and which you have played for less than two hours. That falls short of the statutory provisions for refunds that apply in many jurisdictions, but it's nevertheless a useful protection if you purchase a game which doesn't work on your PC, is hopelessly bug-riddled or is fundamentally not-as-advertised.

    But this system is causing problems of its own. In particular, a lot of small-scale indie developers, whose games only sell for a couple of dollars but whose play-time is less than two hours, are finding that people are playing their games to completion in less than two hours and then requesting refunds, despite having, in essenence, fully consumed the product. Guess what - customers can be greedy, exploitive morons too.

    Now, you might argue - and indeed I would - that Steam would be a better place if it closed the door to a lot of these small-scale indie developers, or at least increased the barriers to entry. But encouraging them onto the platform and then shafting them through the refund policy benefits nobody.

    I think part of the problem here is that for all of their many benefits, Valve remain resolutely awful at direct customer support and, indeed, seem to have no interest in resourcing it properly. Turn-around time for support requests, including non-standard refund reqursts, are abyssmal (and said requests often just drop into a black-hole). This means that when things go wrong either for a customer or a developer, unless you manage to get a twitter-storm on-side, it can be very hard to escalate a problem. Dealing with that and becoming better at processing those non-standard refunds (for instance, when a previously-working game is broken by a patch), might help with a lot of Valve's current problems. But that won't be cheap or easy for the company to implement.

    • I purchased Prototype 2 which turns out to have a bug that makes it unplayable on AMD cards. I asked for a refund and got denied even though I have 1 hour of play time. My two choices were to issue a credit card charge back and likely get my account shut down along with the loss of all my games or to eat the cost of Prototype 2.
  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @11:17AM (#51807553) Homepage Journal

    Valve has contested ACCC's arguments on a number of grounds.

    1) We're American!
    2) What? That's like communism!
    3) But it's on the internet!

    • 1 and 3 actually. They claimed they don't do business in Australia.

      You know they just release special releases of games for that country that are only available to users of the service in that country and are only applied when paid in the currency of that country. They just apparently don't do business in that country.

      • You know the old one about the trouble with political jokes is that they sometimes get elected? There must be an equivalent for the legal sphere.

        4) (a corollary[1] of 1 ): Is that the one with the Lederhosen or the one with the kangaroos? Yeah, we, er, meant the other one.

        [1] No, not a corroboree.

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