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Updated Steam subscriber agreement prohibits class action lawsuits

Wednesday, 1st August 2012 02:03 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Valve has announced changers to its Steam subscriber agreement which include reimbursement for those who bring legal claims against the company – but block class action lawsuits.

“Customers may now only bring individual claims, not class action claims,” Valve wrote in a Steam news update.

“In far too many cases, class actions don’t provide any real benefit to users and instead impose unnecessary expense and delay, and are often designed to benefit the class action lawyers who craft and litigate these claims. Class actions like these do not benefit us or our communities.”

While acknowledging the benefits class actions sometimes bring, Valve has proposed users instead rely on arbitration or a small claims court in those cases where normal dispute resolution fails.

“In the arbitration process, Valve will reimburse your costs of the arbitration for claims under a certain amount. Reimbursement by Valve is provided regardless of the arbitrator’s decision, provided that the arbitrator does not determine the claim to be frivolous or the costs unreasonable,” the publisher added, rather generously.

Less controversially, the updated user agreement also places European users in the hands of Valve’s new Luxembourg office, Valve S.a.r.l.

You must agree to the updated subscriber agreement in order to continue using Steam.

Thanks, Kotaku.

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15 Comments

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  1. Telepathic.Geometry

    Changers?

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Telepathic.Geometry

    There is another point here, that I think might be interesting, especially going forwards with digital distribution. What happens if you refuse to agree to the terms? You lose all of the games and whatnot you’ve bought over the years? Isn’t that kinda outrageous?

    I really hope that digital distribution is able to evolve into something really transparent in the future, where we can understand clearly what we own, and what our rights are. I’m guessing the answers are nothing and none.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. alterecho

    Oh just get a retail copy and be done with it.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Cygnar

    The class action waiver/arbitration clause is likely to be effective only in the United States. If challenged, the section will come under much more strict review in European courts where consumer protection laws tend to preclude these sorts of restrictions on litigation and forum selection.

    That said, Valve has gone a step beyond the class action waivers seen in the modern wave of EULA arbitration clauses, such as those from Sony and Microsoft. These EULAs allow users the choice to object to the class action waiver within several weeks after accepting the rest of the Agreement; while this is a very unlikely right for consumers to exercise, the option allows these EULAs to get away with strict terms such as class action waivers without risking that the contracts are unenforceable. Valve does not offer this option, and because its EULA has a retroactive effect (users who object can no longer access content they purchased previously), the class action waiver is a risky move.

    Valve may be taking a page out of Netflix’ playbook by trying to cut off class actions without giving an opt-out option, but there is still plenty of room for these clauses to fail in Federal courts. After all, these provisions offer former and current consumers the ‘take it or leave it’ option of losing their right to litigate or losing access to content and services. Given the quasi-retail nature of Steam’s business model (as opposed to the Netflix ‘all you can eat’ approach), I think this Valve contract is in much greater danger of being found unconscionable and unenforceable.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Talkar

    And This is why i don’t like clients such as steam. They can do whatever they want and the costumer has to just follow, or loose 1000′s of dollars worth of games.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. GrimRita

    Well this is just plain stupid. Either way, despite putting this kind of crap in their small print, I think they will have a hard time upholding it.

    If this was the case, every single company on earth would put this in their T&Cs and Lawyers would be out of a job over night.

    Will this have an impact on me? Doubt it. I dont see any reason why I will now/in the future take legal action against Steam unless something drastic changed – like if EA bought them! lol

    #6 2 years ago
  7. expose the core

    I don’t think you can wave your legal rights away to any EULA in the EU. Not sure how it is in the US.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. dex3108

    If they can prove that i am person who clicked I Agree (and they can’t) then ok. Every Agreement, ToS and EULA that are digital can be very easily rejected on court :D

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Artheval_Pe

    If I recall well, in french law such subscribers agreement are what is called a “dol” which is a form of vice of consent that makes the contract null. The fact that you can’t play the game you bought and that you can’t get a refund if you don’t agree with the EULA or Subscribers Agreements makes those contracts null.

    In other words, most EULAs and Subscribers Agreements wouldn’t mean shit in front of a french court.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Patrick Garratt

    @9 – Is that true?

    #10 2 years ago
  11. LordSkyline

    @10 It is true for all of the EU, any EULA (what so ever) you HAVE to accept to have access to something you purchased is void in the EU.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Telepathic.Geometry

    @10: It sounds about right to me. It’s more or less the same as signing a contract under duress.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. DSB

    It really sucks either way.

    They can’t take your games away for not signing a EULA, because obviously you’re not required to sign it, and just like before, people can opt out freely.

    I just think it’s hugely disappointing that the country with one of the worlds best constitutions, is so open to undermining everything it stands for.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. ManuOtaku

    #5 I do agree, This is one of the reasons why i dont like the way the industry is going, with cloud gaming replacing physical media,etc, and also services like steam, the provider have the power to do what they like with the account, not the user, and they hold the key to the account, i know their business is to sell games, but i dont trust something that haves 100% of the power on their hands, is like the saying absolute power, corrupts absolubtly, and this is the case here with the so call future of this industry.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. DSB

    That’s just scaremongering though.

    The license is just as much yours on a client, and the retailer is going to be just as liable for damages if he takes it away without notice. You don’t lose your rights as a consumer, just because you buy online. Since the digital distributor is the only source of your purchase, it is also directly responsible for delivering that product.

    If it was legal to sell people stuff and then take it back, or not deliver, for any reason you choose, then you wouldn’t have a functional market.

    Which is to say nothing for the slightly overlooked fact that no digital distributor has any interest in denying you your games, and would probably love it if you bought some more.

    #15 2 years ago