Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
Software Games

Steam Fined $3 Million For Refusing Refunds ( 160

Gaming company Valve Corporation has been hit with a $3 million fine after the Federal Court found its online games site Steam breached Australian Consumer Laws. From a report: The court imposed the maximum fine requested by Australia's competition regulator because of Valve's disregard for Australian law and lack of contrition. Valve's general counsel, Karl Quackenbush, told the court the company did not obtain legal advice when it set up in Australia, and did not check its obligations until the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission got involved in April 2014. It only provided staff verbal instructions. This lack of interest in Australian laws and lack of cooperation encouraged Justice James Edelman to impose a pentaly 12 times more than Valve Corporation suggested it pay.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Steam Fined $3 Million For Refusing Refunds

Comments Filter:
  • Pentaly (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward


  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Friday December 23, 2016 @10:43AM (#53543145)

    What kind of idiots are the people running this company? Do they actually think they're running a Mom and Pop store?

    • No, but they have a bright future ahead of them at Uber!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is just more government meddling in the affairs of a business. For a country lead by supposed conservatives I'm surprised they would take such an anti-free market stance here. It should be Valve's choice on how it deals with refunds, and consumers are free to decide whether or not they can live with it. Gaming is not a necessity nor a right.

    • This is just more government meddling in the affairs of a business.

      Nope. This is just more No Man's Sky backlash.

    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Friday December 23, 2016 @11:08AM (#53543249)

      This is just more government meddling in the affairs of a business.

      Damn straight. Let's get the government out of the affairs of business entirely. No more consumer protection and no more business protection. Including no more court-enforced debt collection, garnishment, or intellectual property rights. If a business can't pry the money out of my hands, market itself out of "consumer confusion" by counterfeit products, and make their product uncopyable, them screw 'em. It should be the consumer's choice on how they deal with business, and businesses are free to decide whether they wante to enter the market or not.

      Legal protections are part of a compact between businesses and their customers. They must protect both sides. Otherwise, there's nothing to convince the unprotected side to respect the protected side except raw force.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdflat . c om> on Friday December 23, 2016 @11:09AM (#53543263) Journal
      Gaming may not be a right, but under the Australia Consumer Law [], refunds on products that fail to meet reasonable expectations are. Valve was being stupid.
      • by SumDog ( 466607 )

        New Zealand had a very similar law. I had a company refuse to warranty a Nexus 4. First I could get only text/voice and no data and then the Wi-Fi went out. Then it stopped booting. It was a clear hardware failure. I put the stock rom on but forgot to relock the bootloader. They refused saying I damaged the phone by unlocking it.

        I had to go to court and argue with the incompetent, non-technical idiot they company sent. The arbitrator awarded me the $450. I'm not even sure of the three hours in court were wr

        • by Raenex ( 947668 )

          The US has similar laws. You could always take a company to court for not honoring their warranty.

          • The US seems to follow "buyer beware", whereas Australia (and NZ) follow "buyer be protected". If you buy a device with a 12 month warranty and a reasonable consumer would expect it to last in excess of five years flawlessly, you can likely get it repaired/replaced for free if it dies within that time period (though it'll probably take some arguing). Likewise if the device doesn't do what it purported to do, or what the sales person said it could do, you can have it refunded. Reduces risk on the buyer's beh

    • I support strong consumer protection laws. These are simply a group of people getting together and saying, collectively, if you want to do business with us, then these are the overall guiding terms by which you need to do that business. This is, essentially, just an umbrella contract. Steam didn't look at the umbrella contract for the group of customers it was dealing with, and now has to pay the penalty specified in that contract. How is this anti free market? Every market has rules. Look at the insi

  • Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mhkohne ( 3854 ) on Friday December 23, 2016 @10:57AM (#53543195) Homepage

    How could ANYONE be stupid enough to not check local laws when opening in a new COUNTRY? I see that Valve is privately held, and apparently the owners aren't really very good at the detail work on things like this.

    I've said before that you can't run a company only by listening to lawyers (and quite frequently you need to ignore them when they get too protective), but that doesn't mean you don't need them at all!

    I applaud Australia for levying a fine high enough that someone will perhaps notice and wish to avoid a repeat.

    • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday December 23, 2016 @11:38AM (#53543441)
      There are no borders on the Internet. As best as I can tell, Steam (Valve) doesn't have any presence in Australia. They set up a payment-based website which distributes games over the Internet, and people in Australia happened to use it.

      You probably have a website or a Facebook page or a Twitter feed. Since it's online, it's accessible from nearly every country in the world. Did you check to make sure everything you post complies with every law in every country on the planet?
    • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

      How could ANYONE be stupid enough to not check local laws when opening in a new COUNTRY?

      It's a very common thing small and medium sized businesses do.

      I see that Valve is privately held, and apparently the owners aren't really very good at the detail work on things like this.

      They're also a medium sized company, not even 300 staff (they did peak at 360 at one point I think?) currently to my knowledge, so on the lower end of medium sized companies too.

      I've said before that you can't run a company only by liste

      • By what definition is 300 the lower end of medium?

        I've seen definitions where that's the middle of medium (and logarithmically, the upper end), and definitions where that's simply large.

        Not accusing, just honestly curious.

        • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

          By what definition is 300 the lower end of medium?

          Just quickly double checked my defintion of "medium sized" on Google and confirmed, a medium sized company is 100 to 999 according to Google [], under 300 is certainly closer to 100 than 999, hence lower end.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2016 @11:08AM (#53543251)
    "During the case the court heard Valve did in fact offer more than 15,000 refunds if a customer was unable to install a game, or unable to play it, or where a subscriber purchased the wrong version of a game by mistake."
    So WTF are Aussies fining Steam $3M? Because they can't beat Pac-Man?
    • Unlike the US, a lot of countries have consumer protection laws. If you buy something that's substantially different than was advertised, or it's not fit for purpose, or doesn't do what a reasonable person would expect it to do, you can get your money back.

      For example, in Canada, what the US calls 'Kraft Mac and Cheese' is called 'Kraft Dinner.' It can't be advertised as 'cheese' because, well, it contains no cheese.

      • by aevan ( 903814 )
        Huh? It was original Kraft Dinner, they just renamed it for american audience. Cheese is on the ingredients.
        Spoiler: they have on the box advertising 'more cheese' 'extra cheese', and 'three cheeses'. Be a bit hard to have that if there weren't any cheese by some legal metric.

        Sauce: have a box beside me
        • I may well stand corrected. I cannot, for the life of me, find the reference I'm fairly sure I'd found that explained all this.

          Everything I'm reading now talks more about branding and KD being some sort of Canadian cultural icon.

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Another fun bit from Canada. This one has to do with margarine. [] Those consumer protection laws are exceptionally useful, many of them up here also cover all contracts. And ensure that things like software aren't licenses, but considered an "owned product" much like a physical purchase. I know that many US states are finally catching up, but here in Canada they exist because many companies up here have in the past been far worse then American companies. An example back oh a decade or more ago Rogers(th

      • by SumDog ( 466607 )

        There's a funny comic about Craft Singles:

    • by macraig ( 621737 )

      Let me give you a very relevant example of Valve being assholes. Do you recall a few years back when Valve decided to jump on the forced-arbitration-clause bandwagon let loose by the Supreme Court? When the "change in terms of service" arrived, I decided that I'd had enough and refused to agree to the new terms. Paypal had given me the right to opt out of the similar change to its agreement. Refusing with no opt-out of course meant that I would be barred from the Steam DRM system and thus unable to play

      • I did and you could have just clicked accept on the new terms. The fact that you already had purchased games under a previous agreement meant that if you did at some point need to take Valve to court, you could do so under the previous EULA. The reality, in the US at least, is that for consumer purchased software, the EULA is not worth the paper it is written on if you have a real, justified lawsuit. The fact that you must accept something after a non-refundable transaction has occurred means that it is

        • by macraig ( 621737 )

          The current implementation skews influence in favor of the businesses.

          That was the entire reason for my objection. It's being abused - as the Supreme Court knew it would be when they rendered that decision - to avoid legitimate responsibility that only class action lawsuits can reasonably address and pad corporate profit margins in the process. We all hate lawyers who abuse the class action system, and there are many, but the class action system exists because it serves a purpose that only lawsuits brough

  • Unless Valve has branches in Austrailia, I wonder how they intend to collect the fine if Steam decides not to pay up?

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Unless Valve has branches in Austrailia, I wonder how they intend to collect the fine if Steam decides not to pay up?

      Actually, due to agreements between the US and Australia they can now be pursued in US courts. Its similar to if an Australian company violated US laws whilst selling digital product to Americans would be able to be sued in Australia for violating those laws. Ignorance of those laws is not a defence.

      Its actually quite an open and shut thing. Pulling out of a country after the fact is not a defence either. Also even if they had branches in Australia, the legal path via another country is the preferred met

      • I admit chances are it's probably easier for Steam to just pay the fine unless the Auz market is worth less than I thought too but it would be interesting to see what would happen if Steam decided to fight. I suspect gamers would be the ones hit in the crosshairs. Auz could effectively block Steam but that would result in their games becoming unplayable and a whole lot of gamers getting angry.

        The US has a very pro-US president now (Trump) for better or worse who's plan is to be super pro-US when he comes

  • The fine goes to the government, right?

    So when businesses do something bad to me the government gets the money?

    In other words, government is more important than people.
  • by melting_clock ( 659274 ) on Friday December 23, 2016 @04:43PM (#53545259)

    Companies often try to use licenses and agreements to get around laws. It can be amusing when they find out that this doesn't actually work. The laws specifying the circumstance where a refund is required are very simple and not unreasonable. A customer that just changes their mind has no legal right to a refund. A product that does not live up to the claims there were made by the seller, is defective or not fit for purpose must be refunded. A truthful seller has nothing to fear.

    The ACCC regularly goes after companies for breaches of Australian corporate law and $3M is not a big fine when you consider Steam refused a lot of refunds where it was legally required to give a refund. Only weeks ago a drug company was fined $6M over misleading claims. Individual offences can be up to $10M per breach.

    In Australia it is actually an offence for seller to put up sign stating that no refunds are give under any circumstances.

    When it comes to software being fit for purpose and living up to the original claims there are extra complications compared to a physical product. An update that changes functionality so that the original claims are not met or that makes the software no long fit for purpose could leave the buyer with a right for a refund. It might not be a complete refund, depending on the time it was in use and actual changes but it give sellers something to consider. Again, an honest and truthful seller that does not screw their customers has nothing to fear.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Thanks for this, now can you maybe do something about the companies breaking games permanently by shutting down DRM servers? The US certainly doesn't seem to care.

    No one's saying an MMO company has to keep the game running till the end of time. But for games with single player mode there's no excuse.

  • Amazing. People forget Steam is a defacto monopoly now. They have no real competition. The last disk I bought just had a steam code on the disk, and the steam installer. When they mislabeled the minimum requirements for a game and left out that it did not run on 64bit Win 7 it took three weeks for them to tell me to sit and spin. They are not consumer friendly. You click no to the newly updated subscriber agreement and your library is locked. They could put in their that they have the right to use ra

Do not underestimate the value of print statements for debugging.