Valve sued by Australian consumer rights group

Valve is being sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over allegedly making “false or misleading representations” when it comes to consumer guarantees. Turns out that even though Valve does not have a physical presence Down Under, the studio’s still bound by local consumer law.

Valve Software

In trouble in Australia

Australian Consumer Law spells out that retailers and manufacturers must provide remedies to Australian consumers if their goods are not of acceptable quality or fit for the purpose for which they were sold. Simply put: If a product is not of acceptable quality, the Australian customer may be entitled to a refund or replacement item.

In Valve‘s case, “acceptable quality” means a game that does not work, as opposed to a game that is not as much fun as you might have hoped.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims explains that consumer guarantees provided under ACL cannot be “excluded, restricted or modified”:

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

According to the consumer watch dog, Valve told Australian Steam customers that:

  • consumers were not entitled to a refund for any games sold by Valve via Steam in any circumstances;
  • Valve had excluded, restricted or modified statutory guarantees and/or warranties that goods would be of acceptable quality;
  • Valve was not under any obligation to repair, replace or provide a refund for a game where the consumer had not contacted and attempted to resolve the problem with the computer game developer; and
  • the statutory consumer guarantees did not apply to games sold by Valve.

…unsurprisingly, the ACCC took objection to these claims, as any company “carrying on business in Australia by selling to Australian consumers” still must adhere to the Australian Consumer Law.

The court case will not impact on Steam services, says Valve in a statement to Player Attack:

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.

It’s a serious matter, and the ACCC isn’t treating it lightly, seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, disclosure orders, adverse publicity orders, non-party consumer redress, a compliance program order and costs.

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