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Games Your Rights Online

Valve Removes Right For Class Action Claims From EULA 270

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-all-sue-them-for-this dept.
trawg writes "Valve has joined the list of companies that have altered their terms and conditions to prevent users from filing a class action suit. Their official statement says that such claims 'impose unnecessary expense and delay' and are 'designed to benefit the class action lawyers.' In its stead, they've added a new arbitration process, in which Valve will reimburse costs (under certain circumstances) when dispute resolution can't be solved through their normal support process."
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Valve Removes Right For Class Action Claims From EULA

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  • by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:24PM (#40837781)

    It just seems wrong that a product EULA can make you forfeit your rights like this.

    But at the same time they are absolutely correct, class action seldom really benefits anyone but the law firms.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:34PM (#40837861)

      Unfortunately, it's not just an end-run around the courts. The courts said "Go ahead, run around us." Specifically, The Supreme Court decided companies may enforce binding arbitration in service agreement contract: http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/banking/2011/05/us-supreme-court-okays-binding-arbitration-clauses-prohibiting-consumers-from-joining-class-actions.html

      • by lexsird (1208192)

        Wow, couple that with the Citizens United ruling and we have a SCOTUS that is in a race to the bottom.

      • by greg1104 (461138) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @01:12AM (#40838933) Homepage

        Working link [typepad.com]. It's worth reading the rendered opinion of the court here. AT&T was providing these arbitration rules:

        In the event the parties proceed to arbitration, the agreement specifies that AT&T must pay all costs for nonfrivolous claims; that arbitration must take place in the county in which the customer is billed; that, for claims of $10,000 or less, the customer may choose whether the arbitration proceeds in person, by telephone, or based only on submissions; that either party may bring a claim in small claims court in lieu of arbitration; and that the arbitrator may award any form of individual relief, including injunctions and presumably punitive damages. The agreement, more over, denies AT&T any ability to seek reimbursement of its attorney’s fees, and, in the event that a customer receives an arbitration award greater than AT&T’s last written settlement offer, requires AT&T to pay a $7,500 minimum recovery and twice the amount of the claimant’s attorney’s fees.

        To anyone who thinks there exists a class action lawsuit that is going to provide more compelling terms for AT&T to fix a customer issue than this, I'd say nonsense. I have a small pile of "won" class action suits, where I got $20 to $50 for abusive behavior that cost me far more than that, years after it was irrelevant. In each and every case, I would have preferred swift abritration over the option to sue if the option were available. That's the point the SCOTUS was trying to make here--that had a class action suit proceeded, people would have been far less likely to get satisfaction.

        The idea of a class-action lawsuit is ridiculous, unsatisfying nonsense perpetuated by the lawyers who profit from them. If companies want to push for abritration instead, the right response isn't to say "no, we want the right to be screwed over by our lawyers". What saavy people should be thinking about is doing the same thing--punishing companies on a large scale for their mistakes--via large-scale, coordinated abitration. I'm far more confident that crowdsourcing abitration will provide a useful benefit to consumers than any of the broken legal processes for suing companies we have now.

        • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @05:49AM (#40840323) Homepage

          The idea of a class-action lawsuit is ridiculous, unsatisfying nonsense perpetuated by the lawyers who profit from them.

          They can be completely legitimate.

          Imagine an electric company that overcharges all its customers $10. Now each customer in theory could sue them in small claims to win your $10 but it's probably not worth their time, which means the company would make millions by doing that. What prevents them from just doing that regularly is the risk that somebody will notice the pattern and sue them in a class action all at once rather than each individual having to try to recover their $10 on their own.

      • by AdamWill (604569)

        Wow, you have some terrible laws.

        However, that decision does seem to refer specifically to *contracts*. As in, "Mr. and Mrs. Conception entered into a cellular telephone contract". An EULA is not a contract.

        • by bfandreas (603438)
          I'm not even sure this is really legal. What happened to "unalienable"? I don't give this BS the chance of a snowball in hell to stand ind court.
          And yes, a EULA can't be a contract.
        • by fatphil (181876)
          Having said that, the contract was a "Contract of Adhesion", where basically one party has no choice, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contracts_of_adhesion
          . Add to that the fact that some say that EULAs are contracts of adhesion, and we're (well, the yanks are, I'm not) in a murky middle ground here.

          Which is great, as it will keep the lawyers in jobs.
      • by fatphil (181876)
        Your link refers to a contract. At least where I live, an EULA is not a contract.
        So that precedent isn't necessarily relevant. We may have to wait until something actually hits the courts. And the appeals court. And the SCOTUS.
      • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @07:33AM (#40840923) Journal
        I know it will sound trollish, but this is for reasons like this one that I don't think I will ever live or make business in the US (unless I have a big legal department one day). In France, you can accept EULA knowing that some legal rights are not circumventable. I can buy stuff online and click "accept", I know that I have 3 (or 5, can't remember) days to cancel the order.

        Living in a country where a single click or the buy of a DVD or a hardware device can void your democratically decided rights is really dangerous.
    • by Dyinobal (1427207)
      I also agree with these statements. The thing that makes me shake my head is these arbitrators are the same thing banks use to royally screw customers here in the USA. They are never impartial and have only 1 goal, to save the company that hired them as much money as possible.
      • by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @11:19PM (#40838275)

        I also agree with these statements. The thing that makes me shake my head is these arbitrators are the same thing banks use to royally screw customers here in the USA. They are never impartial and have only 1 goal, to save the company that hired them as much money as possible.

        I just ditched my bank for a credit union because they sent me a note saying I had to agree to arbitration.

        Guess they found out I don't "have to agree" with *anything*.

    • by gman003 (1693318) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:37PM (#40837887)

      I, and many actual lawyers, don't think that they can. These clauses *probably* will not stand up in court, at least against a legitimate grievance. It may work, either directly or indirectly, to stop money-grab class actions, but it may not work if there's a real case.

      I am told (IANAL, remember?) that it is already unenforceable in the EU, and that several states in the US are considering making it unenforceable as well.

      • by Nursie (632944)

        EU - certainly.

        But I'm pretty sure that in the US there was a SCOTUS decision specifically allowing this. It's possible that that only applies to 'real' contracts though, and EULA's may or may not be real contracts (IMHO, IANAL) due to the lack of negotiation and the relative positions of the two parties.

      • by bedonnant (958404)
        Well, in France for example, class actions just don't exist, but we do have special judges for small disputes that seem to work pretty well, and don't even require you to get a lawyer.
        • We have those judges in the USA as well, and they're mentioned elsewhere in the thread. They preside over special courts called 'Small Claims Courts'. Exact verbage may vary by state, as does the exact rules and limits on awards. In general, though, $5k is a good rule of thumb and in most cases it's actually illegal(or greatly frowned upon) to bring legal representation(it's considered unfair to the other side). A business may send a representative, but it's supposed to be somebody in charge, such as th

      • by bfandreas (603438)
        EU legislators take a very dim view on companies that take try to circumvent standing laws.
        But bear in mind that class action suits are not common in the EU. You may appear as co-plaintiff and that's it. If a company royally screws up then it will be dealt with by state watchdogs of which there are a couple of kennels kept around.
      • by headLITE (171240)

        EULAs are unenforcable in the EU if they're for a packaged product you bought in a store. If you buy something online on Steam, where you only "subscribe" to an online service, they are part of the contract and very much enforceable.

        However, we don't really have class action lawsuits here, or punitive damages...

    • by macshit (157376) <miles@ g n u.org> on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:38PM (#40837893) Homepage

      It just seems wrong that a product EULA can make you forfeit your rights like this.

      Can it? Such terms may not have any legal force. There are certain rights you cannot sign away (especially with something as dodgy as an EULA, rather than a real contract).

      They're free to write whatever they want in hope of scaring people away from doing certain things, of course, but that does not make what they write true...

      • by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:44PM (#40837951)

        I'm not sure about EULA's but it has been specifically allowed by the supreme court in contracts. Whether the former count as much as the latter is a matter of contention.

        It was only the right to band together in a class-action, it doesn't affect your rights to sue as an individual, and some companies (Sony) give you the option to opt-out of this clause, if you write to them directly to do so.

    • by Asmor (775910)

      Even if the lawyers are the only ones that walk away rich, the defendant is still going to feel the sting.

      Lawsuits aren't about winning money (though that's often a motivating factor for the plaintiff); the threat of a potential lawsuit may be the only thing keeping a company in check. And when that company deals in transactions with tiny individual costs, where no rational person would file an individual lawsuit over it, a class action lawsuit is the only way to give the threat teeth.

    • by Guppy06 (410832) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @11:06PM (#40838161)

      class action seldom really benefits anyone but the law firms

      Perhaps, but arbitration seldom really benefits anyone but the defendants.

    • by Coppit (2441)

      Don't forget it *punishes* the company, even if people don't get a dime. In fact for some things like pollution I'd rather they just take the award money and burn it, thereby increasing the value of everyone's money equally.

    • by Artraze (600366) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @11:14PM (#40838229)

      > But at the same time they are absolutely correct, class action seldom really benefits anyone but the law firms.

      Directly? Yes. Indirectly? Well... Perhaps not.

      Class action suits are much more about seeking _punishment_ than compensation. That's why companies hate them and want to preclude them with clauses like these. Sure every member of the class might only get, say 20% returned, but the company pays out 200%. Moreover, it's quite a lot easier to join the class than it is to file suit or enter arbitration on your own. So they maybe give full 100% compensation (+ maybe 50% in court/arbitration costs) to 10% of the customers and it's a "win-win". But really it gives them a much wider margin in which to screw the end user because it basically guarantees that potential costs will not exceed the profits from doing so (this being especially true for software companies where the cost per person is basically zero so _if_ they have to return your payment it's just a wash). While the law firm may take a huge and unfair cut, ideally that money is being pulled from a gaping wound in the company, in a way they hope to avoid.

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      I don't know about US law, but in my local law it is impossible for any kind of contract to remove legal rights like this.
      Ofcourse, this is assuming a EULA is considered a legal document at all, which apparently rarely holds up in court in my country.

      • by sosume (680416)

        Not true. Many contracts worldwide detail how conflicts should be resolved, usually through arbitration. However, those are contracts which you sign. For an 'I agree' EULA this is quite new.

        • But the laws in many countries in the world do not allow you to forfeit your legal rights by contract. Here, for example, a contract's clausal that forbids you from suing a person or a company in any way is null and void.
    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      That is why this doesn't really bug me, because I've seen time and time again what you "get" with a class action. YOU, the person that was actually wronged, gets a fucking coupon, while the lawyer gets a new house in the Cayman islands to go with the pile of money in the bank!

      Its not like they are saying you can't sue valve, and its not like there aren't plenty of lawyers that would take on a company like Valve on a contingency basis, so its not like its gonna affect John Q Average. The only ones this "hurt

    • by bfandreas (603438)
      Even if you signed that EULA with your own blood it wouldn't be binding. Who makes you think that? Valve can't change the laws of this country and a contract(even if a EULA were one) can't be illegal.
      Unalienable means you can't sell, be stripped, mugged, robbed, forbidden or sign over your rights as a citizen or a human being.
      Unless you are a convicted felon, not quite the right type or not rich enough, that is.
    • They are absolutely correct, though. Nobody wins in class action suits except the lawyers. They are designed to be penal measures against a company where the people who had the problem with the company get nearly nothing in return, and the lawyers' "fee" is 90% of the payout. If it were a GIGNORMOUS company like Microsoft or Google, where you know they already have a fleet of lawyers and tons of money to blow, then this would be a scam, but as it is Valve is not a huge company outside their popularity.

      Sorry

  • -1 Evil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:26PM (#40837803)

    Yeah, normally I'm a big Valve fan, but I've gotta admit, I can't defend this one. I mean, they're right about "class actions only make money for the lawyers", but still...

    I may not start boycotting you now, Valve, but you just lost a few points of rep with *this* faction.

    • by Dan667 (564390)
      what is the right answer then? No one makes money on class action lawsuits expect lawyers so what benefit are they to the people that suffer? I believe in the rule of law, but corporate lawsuits are a broken system where the guilty don't go to jail.
  • opt out (Score:4, Interesting)

    by the_Bionic_lemming (446569) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:38PM (#40837891)

    I sent an email to sales@steam.com that bounced back and then I forwarded to webmaster@steam.com

    I told them that I would not give up my rights as an american to have a jury of my peers, and since I notified them of that I would then accept the altered terms of the EULA based on that statement.

    They did not respond before I clicked it.

    I don't think they should be able to steal my money if I do not agree (by not allowing me to play the games I purchase if I do not agree) so I figure in the unlikely event that this EULA would ever matter, I could at least hope for a sympathetic judge when I explained how drunk I was when I came up with this plan. //toddles off to get another beer.

  • I just restarted Steam and saw this (again - had already RTFA and commented). It of course popped up saying "the EULA and Privacy Policy have changed, please read and agree (if you disagree, you cannot continue)". Then it showed me the new EULA.

    Or rather, it tried to. The text box was blank. I clicked through before I thought to grab a screenshot, otherwise I'd have one hell of a technicality should I ever want to sue them.

  • I'm sure a whole mess of people have seen that Erin Brockovich movie about the mother turned legal aid who took on the faceless megacorp PG&E with a class action and won, giving everyone who watched the film a rosy view of the process? I mean why would Valve dare remove such an amazing system unless they're they scum of the earth right?!

    Yeah except that class actions aren't usually like that. Very rarely do they ever benefit the actual people wronged. It's a good way for the lawyers to make some cash th

    • by bfandreas (603438)
      It did cost Erin quite a lot of time and effort which is why many people think she is a national heroine and not at all that wosshername actress who played her in a movie based on what she did.
      If you do not stand up and speak for yourself who else is supposed to do it?

      This attitude reminds me of this "You are about to be fired" speach V broadcast and that didn't make it into the movie. For shame!
  • Most class action suits are scams anyway. Just today I received notice of one that I'm included in being filed against Netflix for alleged privacy violations. The lawyers are seeking $9 million. I won't list the whole breakdown of the proposed settlement, but the lawyers are keeping $2.25 million (not including expenses), while the plaintiffs get a whopping $30,000 to split between however many thousand there end up being.

    If Valve screws you over, you can still sue them as an individual, this just lim
    • I won't list the whole breakdown of the proposed settlement, but the lawyers are keeping $2.25 million (not including expenses), while the plaintiffs get a whopping $30,000 to split between however many thousand there end up being.

      In this specific instance, the six named plantiffs are getting $5,000 each. Everyone else is getting exactly nothing.

      • by Fulminata (999320)
        Good point. So, the attorneys in this suit are effectively removing the rights of everyone in the "class" to sue over this issue in exchange for absolutely nothing. Further, they emailed me the notice, but in order to opt out I need to send a letter to a post office box in Minnesota. This information is not listed on the page the email links to, rather I had to search a moderately lengthy FAQ to find it.

        Valve is doing their customers a service by including this in the EULA.
        • by Cederic (9623)

          Surely unless you've given them permission to include you in the class suit they can not legally represent you?

          In fact, invite Netflix to sue them for lying out of their arses for misrepresenting whether they're representing you. About $200m should be reasonable.

  • I want to be mad about this--I don't like losing any of my rights--but...

    1. indeed, CALs ultimately have little impact on customers (yay a coupon) or corporations (yay another small regulatory tax expense that we overcharge our little consumers to pay for in the first place);
    2. I clicked "I agree" because I kinda thought they already had terms like that the last one or two times they altered the deal [youtube.com] (unless I was thinking of other games I've played); and
    3. do I reeeeeeeeeeally want to lose my catalog of games tha
  • The EULA can require that you give up your first born to be eaten by rabid weasels. It doesn't mean it's legal or that you have to actually do it. They've reduced EULA's to the level of a joke. The only reason they matter is most can't aford the lawyers to fight them!
    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      It's time to make sure that there is a legal precedent set into what really can be written in an EULA and invalidate all the EULA:s that are stepping over the legal bounds.

  • I'm annoyed at valve for this (door-closing, even if it's actually not enforceable) earns a black mark in my book. Ultimately however, I don't think I give a damn. Valve would have to really start spiraling down the Evil Drain for me to actually care about suing them, much less joining a class-action lawsuit against them. There's also the bit about paying the arbitration fees (yes, I read the fine print go away) that tells me they're doing this more in a CYA move than because they've decided to be evil. The

  • by whois (27479) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @03:21AM (#40839673) Homepage

    Steam just made me update and click through the agreement. I figure it isn't valid in court considering the only way to continue playing the games you purchased was to agree to new terms, but it's still bullshit we have to wait until someone tests the law.

    It doesn't matter if it actually benefits the consumer. The companies doing this are playing dirty by limiting the users rights to use the legal system. They haven't given us a choice in the matter, they've decided that whats in their best interest is also in ours. I find that hard to believe.

    I've boycotted Sony for doing the same thing with the PS3, after shenanigans before of removing Linux from the PS3 and taking other things away from the customer. So what am I supposed to do in this case?

     

  • I'd complain but I have quite a few games on steam and they'd probably find some excuse to ban me if I made too much noise. what would I do then? sue them?

  • http://xkcd.com/392/ [xkcd.com]

    I think I finally understand EULAs.

  • And this is why I don't buy using Steam.

    If the EULA changes in such as way as to become unacceptable, you can't just "leave" Steam without some sort of sacrifice for what you've already bought, as most (but not all) of the games use executables which incorporate a wrapper requiring Steam to launch and authenticate anyway in order to run. I suppose you can still leave of course, you just have to find cracks. And I doubt when Steam appears on Linux that cracks will be particularly easy to find (when's the las

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