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Steam’s “no refunds” policy to be challenged in federal court

Friday, 29th August 2014 01:45 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Steam’s “no refunds” policy has come under legal fire.

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Steam does not give refunds for purchases post-launch except under extraordinary circumstances, and Valve’s official policy is that it simply doesn’t offer refunds.

This has sparked the ire of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which argues Valve is in violation of Australian consumer laws.

“Valve may be an American based company with no physical presence in Australia, but it is carrying on business in Australia by selling to Australian consumers, who are protected by the Australian Consumer Law,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement sent to press.

The ACCC alleged Valve made the following “false or misleading representations” to its Australian consumers:

  • 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.

So it’s not so much that Valve has failed to give refunds, but that it has stated that it doesn’t give refunds – and as the Australian Consumer Law applies to all business offerings good or services within the nation, Valve could be in a fair bit of trouble. A Federal Court hearing has been scheduled for October 7.

In fact, in direct contrast to its public stance on the subject Valve does give refunds on Steam purchases – but as an individual, getting one is notoriously difficult. The onus is usually on the user to show that a product is faulty or incorrectly advertised, and it’s usually only when a successful refund goes public – as with Ubisoft’s From Dust – that users manage to take advantage.

Mass refunds are also quite rare. More often than not, mass refunds are organised by publishers; examples include the recent Colin McRae game. Valve itself has elected to issue mass refunds in cases where it has removed a game from the service following consumer complaints, as with The War Z and Earth: Year 2066.

Update: Valve gave a statement on the matter to Kotaku Australia:

“As with most software products, unless required by local law, we do not offer refunds or exchanges on games, DLC or in-game items purchased on our website or through the Steam Client. Please review Section 3 of the Steam Subscriber Agreement for more information.”

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