Valve Fined $3 Million For Not Offering Refunds to Australians

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Valve Fined $3 Million For Not Offering Refunds to Australians

valve-australia-320

Australia's Federal Court has ordered the US-based video games giant to pay a $3 million fine for lack of a proper refund policy.

Last month we reported that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had taken Valve to court over its shoddy refund policy. If you're scratching your head thinking "but Valve's refund policy is pretty great!" the lawsuit referred to Valve prior refund policy, or rather, lack thereof. Now, a Federal Court has ruled in favor of the ACCC, forcing Valve to pay a rather hefty fine of $3 Million to the Australian Government.

Valve had previously requested the fine be lowered to a mere $250,000, but Justice James Edelman decided to impose the maximum fine on the software giant due to its complete lack of interest in Australian laws and lack of cooperation with the Australian Government.

"Valve is a United States company with 2.2 million Australian accounts which received 21,124 tickets in the relevant period containing the word "refund" from consumers with Australian IP addresses," Justice Edelman wrote in his judgement.

"Yet it had a culture by which it formed a view without Australian legal advice that it was not subject to Australian law, and it was content to proceed to trade with Australian consumers without that advice and with the view that even if advice had been obtained that Valve was required to comply with Australian law the advice might have been ignored."

Edelman noted the $250,000 proposed by Valve was "not even a real cost of doing business. It would barely be noticed".

Under the Australian Consumer Law, all consumer goods or services come with automatic consumer guarantees that they are of acceptable quality and fit for the purpose for which they were sold. If they are not, consumers have a right to a remedy, which may include refund, repair or replacement in certain circumstances. These consumer rights cannot be excluded, restricted or modified.

So there you go. Valve may think it's above the law in a lot of other countries but here in Australia we don't stand for that.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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I don't get to use this gif nearly enough. Too much negative news. This, though? This deserves it.

image

Heh, the people can't get refunds, so the government takes the cake, seems fair ;D

Quick question, so does the US have a more restrictive refund policy then? Because it seems one of the big points in Valve's argument was that that as a US company Australian laws don't really apply for them, which I guess I can kind of see the logic behind, but that implies that Valve not giving refunds is still compliant with laws in the US.

Uh...where is that money going? I mean, the Australian Government ordered Valve pay the Australian Government? Sounds fishy.

Sounds like they fixed nothing and got a paycheck out of it.

So...The Australian Government gets the money, even though the Australian citizens were the ones complaining. Someone please try to explain this logic to me, and how it is fair in any shape or form.

Oh man, 3 million? They're gonna have to like... release 3 more hats to make that back! Maybe even 4! Such a terrible punishment.

Borty The Bort:
So...The Australian Government gets the money, even though the Australian citizens were the ones complaining. Someone please try to explain this logic to me, and how it is fair in any shape or form.

In explanation - our government is kind of a massive asshole. I could expand on various legalities or what-not, but honestly, the 'massive asshole' is really far too fitting when it comes to our government and their approach to money.

Borty The Bort:
So...The Australian Government gets the money, even though the Australian citizens were the ones complaining. Someone please try to explain this logic to me, and how it is fair in any shape or form.

Well, it's kind of the only punishment possible. I don't see what else can be done, certainly not finding all the complainants (who weren't party to the case) and distributing the cash amongst them. Also, "the Australian Government" isn't a business. All Australians have a stake in it because it's they who are being governed.

The Australian government gets the money because that's how fines work people... if you get a speeding ticket, you don't pay the other drivers on the road you endangered either, do you?

Borty The Bort:
So...The Australian Government gets the money, even though the Australian citizens were the ones complaining. Someone please try to explain this logic to me, and how it is fair in any shape or form.

Basically by not allowing refunds for defective software, Valve was found to be in breach of Australia's consumer laws. The reason the fine is going to the government is because they (Through the ACCC) brought the matter before the court, which ruled in their favour.

I would imagine if a class action suit had taken place rather than having the government step in, the money would've been awarded to them rather than the government.

TrulyBritish:
Quick question, so does the US have a more restrictive refund policy then?

US consumer law varies from state to state, in a lot of states the law is essentially caveat emptor, you buy it, your problem.

Of course even a very basic knowledge of gaming and it's marketing would tell you how unfair that is on the end user. Valve was happy to run with caveat emptor as policy for over a decade until the European Court announced it was investigating software sales and the behaviour of major publishers/distributors. Knowing full well they would get their arse kicked if it got to court Valve introduced the refund policy, it's still a pretty terrible refund policy, but at least it's there.

The Aussies have prosecuted Valve for the years leading up to that though, I wonder if this leaves them open to being sued by individuals now.

Much as I don't really care about this now, boy it would have been nice to be able to get refunds for complete stinkers like duke nukem forever back before the refund system was in place since those kinds of games will forever rot in my steam library and fill me with shame and sadness.

a little weird. i have requested a refund for a game i have played for over 4 hours and i got it back without any questions asked or any issues.

good to hear that something is being done. as much as the government has its flaws, they do seem to manage something good.

Subatomic:
The Australian government gets the money because that's how fines work people... if you get a speeding ticket, you don't pay the other drivers on the road you endangered either, do you?

This should have been a class-action lawsuit situation, where eligible people can claim a percentage of the fine. Usually not much, but more than nothing.

This does nothing. Valve is being punished for something they already fixed, and nothing else will change because of it, so Australia basically extorted Valve the way I see it. Now, Valve is a greedy company that probably deserves to be fined a bunch of money, but not when it s just to pay off the government of a country that itself is known to essentially abuse their own gaming community.

It's pretty stupid for Valve to claim being a US company is somehow a defense for not following the law of the country they are doing business in. By law, if they want to make business with me they have to follow the rules of my country despite being based in the US. If they don't want to follow those laws, then they don't have the right to do business with me.

If that wasn't the case every country would just move to some shithole with no consumer protection laws and could do whatever they want as long as it doesn't drive customers away.

Borty The Bort:
So...The Australian Government gets the money, even though the Australian citizens were the ones complaining. Someone please try to explain this logic to me, and how it is fair in any shape or form.

They are breaking the laws, therefore the country will fine them. Now obviously they will keep punishing them until they decide to follow the law, which then will work out in favor of the consumer. A non-capitalist way of thinking would suggest to fine them and telling them to either comply with the law or they will have to pull out of the country's market. But obviously letting them be and break the law makes more money. So no reason not to just let them be.

Saelune:

Subatomic:
The Australian government gets the money because that's how fines work people... if you get a speeding ticket, you don't pay the other drivers on the road you endangered either, do you?

This should have been a class-action lawsuit situation, where eligible people can claim a percentage of the fine. Usually not much, but more than nothing.

This does nothing. Valve is being punished for something they already fixed, and nothing else will change because of it, so Australia basically extorted Valve the way I see it. Now, Valve is a greedy company that probably deserves to be fined a bunch of money, but not when it s just to pay off the government of a country that itself is known to essentially abuse their own gaming community.

A class action lawsuit requires people to file their grievances directly. In this case, if I read it rightly, the ACCC investigated some complaints made about a business operating in Australia contrary to Australian Comsumer Law and took Valve to court on behalf of the Crown but not the people. Valve have been fined, in the same way you get fined for speeding, they have NOT been made to pay damages. I'm pretty sure we tried to do the same to Adobe a while back too.

Gordon_4:

Saelune:

Subatomic:
The Australian government gets the money because that's how fines work people... if you get a speeding ticket, you don't pay the other drivers on the road you endangered either, do you?

This should have been a class-action lawsuit situation, where eligible people can claim a percentage of the fine. Usually not much, but more than nothing.

This does nothing. Valve is being punished for something they already fixed, and nothing else will change because of it, so Australia basically extorted Valve the way I see it. Now, Valve is a greedy company that probably deserves to be fined a bunch of money, but not when it s just to pay off the government of a country that itself is known to essentially abuse their own gaming community.

A class action lawsuit requires people to file their grievances directly. In this case, if I read it rightly, the ACCC investigated some complaints made about a business operating in Australia contrary to Australian Comsumer Law and took Valve to court on behalf of the Crown but not the people. Valve have been fined, in the same way you get fined for speeding, they have NOT been made to pay damages. I'm pretty sure we tried to do the same to Adobe a while back too.

My point is, this lawsuit or whatever benefitted no one who deserved it.

Saelune:

Gordon_4:

Saelune:
This should have been a class-action lawsuit situation, where eligible people can claim a percentage of the fine. Usually not much, but more than nothing.

This does nothing. Valve is being punished for something they already fixed, and nothing else will change because of it, so Australia basically extorted Valve the way I see it. Now, Valve is a greedy company that probably deserves to be fined a bunch of money, but not when it s just to pay off the government of a country that itself is known to essentially abuse their own gaming community.

A class action lawsuit requires people to file their grievances directly. In this case, if I read it rightly, the ACCC investigated some complaints made about a business operating in Australia contrary to Australian Comsumer Law and took Valve to court on behalf of the Crown but not the people. Valve have been fined, in the same way you get fined for speeding, they have NOT been made to pay damages. I'm pretty sure we tried to do the same to Adobe a while back too.

My point is, this lawsuit or whatever benefitted no one who deserved it.

I don't think what the ACCC did qualifies as a lawsuit: it was them basically telling the Crown Prosecution Service that Valve we're breaking the law and the CPS summoning them to appear before the Federal Court. If we (Australian gamers) still wanted to sue them directly for reparations, that's still on the table.

Gordon_4:

Saelune:

Gordon_4:

A class action lawsuit requires people to file their grievances directly. In this case, if I read it rightly, the ACCC investigated some complaints made about a business operating in Australia contrary to Australian Comsumer Law and took Valve to court on behalf of the Crown but not the people. Valve have been fined, in the same way you get fined for speeding, they have NOT been made to pay damages. I'm pretty sure we tried to do the same to Adobe a while back too.

My point is, this lawsuit or whatever benefitted no one who deserved it.

I don't think what the ACCC did qualifies as a lawsuit: it was them basically telling the Crown Prosecution Service that Valve we're breaking the law and the CPS summoning them to appear before the Federal Court. If we (Australian gamers) still wanted to sue them directly for reparations, that's still on the table.

Hence the "or whatever" part. I wont pretend to know more about a legal system of a country I am not part of, but it just looks like Australia profiting on something they dont deserve, and only because its against a company that profits on things they dont deserve, no one will actually care. Maybe if Australia was better to gamers, this wouldnt bother me so much.

Tropical:
Heh, the people can't get refunds, so the government takes the cake, seems fair ;D

It's nice to see shallow journalism is still alive and well. The irony. It wasn't the denial or refunds that got Valve in trouble. Funny thing is, the refund denials was upheld in a seperate case. EVen Australian law concedes that certain products , like say entertainment products, fall into a grey area,. As does software, since faults anbd flawss may have nothing to do with thye product but the machine. Sorta like how if you complain about an electrical appliance not working wwhen the appliance works fine and it's your house's electrical wiring that's the problem.

What this was about was Valve failing to inform Australians that they could request a refund. In short, it relates to unintentional misinformation.

If it was about the denbied refunds, the fee would have actually been much higher, since the amount would have been based on a per incident basis.

And Valve actually still has the option of you know just saying.
"Screw it We're not an australian company."

None of that would actually damage or hinder valve's ability to do business in australia.

Saelune:

Gordon_4:

Saelune:
My point is, this lawsuit or whatever benefitted no one who deserved it.

I don't think what the ACCC did qualifies as a lawsuit: it was them basically telling the Crown Prosecution Service that Valve we're breaking the law and the CPS summoning them to appear before the Federal Court. If we (Australian gamers) still wanted to sue them directly for reparations, that's still on the table.

Hence the "or whatever" part. I wont pretend to know more about a legal system of a country I am not part of, but it just looks like Australia profiting on something they dont deserve, and only because its against a company that profits on things they dont deserve, no one will actually care. Maybe if Australia was better to gamers, this wouldnt bother me so much.

The fine is paid to the Crown, which means it goes to the Treasury to be distributed like all other fines or taxes. So while the cynic in me says ScoMo will piss it up the wall, it does mean that there's potentially 3million extra for a school in the Northen Territory, secular counsellors in schools, or climate research at the CSIRO or some benefits for Returned Servicemen.

MonsterCrit:

Tropical:
Heh, the people can't get refunds, so the government takes the cake, seems fair ;D

It's nice to see shallow journalism is still alive and well. The irony. It wasn't the denial or refunds that got Valve in trouble. Funny thing is, the refund denials was upheld in a seperate case. EVen Australian law concedes that certain products , like say entertainment products, fall into a grey area,. As does software, since faults anbd flawss may have nothing to do with thye product but the machine. Sorta like how if you complain about an electrical appliance not working wwhen the appliance works fine and it's your house's electrical wiring that's the problem.

What this was about was Valve failing to inform Australians that they could request a refund. In short, it relates to unintentional misinformation.

If it was about the denbied refunds, the fee would have actually been much higher, since the amount would have been based on a per incident basis.

And Valve actually still has the option of you know just saying.
"Screw it We're not an australian company."

None of that would actually damage or hinder valve's ability to do business in australia.

If they do business in Australia, they abide by our laws simple as that. I would expect no different for an Australian company operating in the United States and would fully support Uncle Sam fining the shit out of them for failed compliance.

fix-the-spade:

TrulyBritish:
Quick question, so does the US have a more restrictive refund policy then?

US consumer law varies from state to state, in a lot of states the law is essentially caveat emptor, you buy it, your problem.

Of course even a very basic knowledge of gaming and it's marketing would tell you how unfair that is on the end user. Valve was happy to run with caveat emptor as policy for over a decade until the European Court announced it was investigating software sales and the behaviour of major publishers/distributors. Knowing full well they would get their arse kicked if it got to court Valve introduced the refund policy, it's still a pretty terrible refund policy, but at least it's there.

The Aussies have prosecuted Valve for the years leading up to that though, I wonder if this leaves them open to being sued by individuals now.

You know what may have helped avoid this mess? Quality control. Quality control and a better refund policy. Jeeze Valve. I know you love resting on your laurels, but...

LazyAza:
Much as I don't really care about this now, boy it would have been nice to be able to get refunds for complete stinkers like duke nukem forever back before the refund system was in place since those kinds of games will forever rot in my steam library and fill me with shame and sadness.

There's a few I want to give back. I tried refunding Dark Souls 2 with only ~45 minutes played on it, get 30$ back on my Steam Wallet (Which would then go right back to them, and I even noted this on my message) but I bought it several months ago so they refused.
There's a good few games like this in my library.

EA's Origin does refunds in Australia. Valve needs to pull their head out of their ass and just do worldwide refunds. There's not really much excuse when damn near every other digital platform for games and even music offers them.

Lots of misguided people not understanding the ACCC here. They exist to ensure our laws are followed by businesses, if you violate their rules you pay their fines. It's 3 mil into our budget, but it's precedent. They also pursue adobe, apple and Microsoft for issues around abusing monopolies to inflate prices of digital goods to this region. Though last I heard they just straight up refuse to cooperate with the ACCC and wear the fine... "whaaaaaat? Price gouging? Of course not! Open our books to prove were not? We'll take the fine for refusing to cooperate thanks."

But yeah, some people who frankly are negative all over the forums trying to say this isn't a win is laughable. Especially since the number thrown about was what 23 thousand complaints? Yeah that payout would have made valve think about how it does business. Totally.

AzrealMaximillion:
EA's Origin does refunds in Australia. Valve needs to pull their head out of their ass and just do worldwide refunds. There's not really much excuse when damn near every other digital platform for games and even music offers them.

Valve has done refunds globally for some time now. This case was about the decade-ish before that, which was completely illegal in Australia and changing the policy did nothing to alter that fact. I'm sure there will be some knock on effects in Aus for other software companies too.

Saelune:
it just looks like Australia profiting on something they dont deserve

Valve lied to Australia gamers telling us we could not get a refund for faulty games despite Valve's EULA stating we could, then banning our entire accounts if we exercised our legal rights as an Australian consumer (and used our banks to claw-back a refund).

Now Valve has been proved to have broken Australian law I would expect there may be some class action law suits using this decision against Valve from the ~50,000 Australians refused refunds by Valve.

What happened to Valve? (you don't have to answer, we all know..) They were such an internet darling 5 years ago.

LazyAza:
those kinds of games will forever rot in my steam library and fill me with shame and sadness.

If you want, you can get rid of them. You won't get a refund at all, but they'll be removed from your library until you buy it again.

Gordon_4:

MonsterCrit:

Tropical:
Heh, the people can't get refunds, so the government takes the cake, seems fair ;D

It's nice to see shallow journalism is still alive and well. The irony. It wasn't the denial or refunds that got Valve in trouble. Funny thing is, the refund denials was upheld in a seperate case. EVen Australian law concedes that certain products , like say entertainment products, fall into a grey area,. As does software, since faults anbd flawss may have nothing to do with thye product but the machine. Sorta like how if you complain about an electrical appliance not working wwhen the appliance works fine and it's your house's electrical wiring that's the problem.

What this was about was Valve failing to inform Australians that they could request a refund. In short, it relates to unintentional misinformation.

If it was about the denbied refunds, the fee would have actually been much higher, since the amount would have been based on a per incident basis.

And Valve actually still has the option of you know just saying.
"Screw it We're not an australian company."

None of that would actually damage or hinder valve's ability to do business in australia.

If they do business in Australia, they abide by our laws simple as that. I would expect no different for an Australian company operating in the United States and would fully support Uncle Sam fining the shit out of them for failed compliance.

That's just it. if you don't have an office in the country then you aren't really doing business in the country. If an australian citizaen travels abroad and buys something. Who's business laws apply? See how that works? If valve closed it's Australian offices then they could basically be said nto be a foreign company that australians do business with.

Internet makes things very complicated.

Gordon_4:

That's just it. if you don't have an office in the country then you aren't really doing business in the country. If an australian citizaen travels abroad and buys something. Who's business laws apply? See how that works? If valve closed it's Australian offices then they could basically be said nto be a foreign company that australians do business with.

Internet makes things very complicated.

Not really, my motorbike is Japanese and purchased through a licenced dealership. It doesn't matter who you bought it, it matters where the purchase is made from.

If I made bad blood products and supplied them to foreign hospitals and medical companies, they could still push for penalties and damages against the parent company if I lied about their quality.

MonsterCrit:

That's just it. if you don't have an office in the country then you aren't really doing business in the country.

Valve do have servers located here in Australia, which counts as a physical presence. So they have to play by our rules.

BiH-Kira:
It's pretty stupid for Valve to claim being a US company is somehow a defense for not following the law of the country they are doing business in. By law, if they want to make business with me they have to follow the rules of my country despite being based in the US. If they don't want to follow those laws, then they don't have the right to do business with me.

If that wasn't the case every country would just move to some shithole with no consumer protection laws and could do whatever they want as long as it doesn't drive customers away.

Borty The Bort:
So...The Australian Government gets the money, even though the Australian citizens were the ones complaining. Someone please try to explain this logic to me, and how it is fair in any shape or form.

They are breaking the laws, therefore the country will fine them. Now obviously they will keep punishing them until they decide to follow the law, which then will work out in favor of the consumer. A non-capitalist way of thinking would suggest to fine them and telling them to either comply with the law or they will have to pull out of the country's market. But obviously letting them be and break the law makes more money. So no reason not to just let them be.

I agree. Valve sell Wolfenstein games to German customers in Germany, but the German customers receive an edited version, one that has Nazi iconography stripped. Valve do this because of German laws.

008Zulu:

MonsterCrit:

That's just it. if you don't have an office in the country then you aren't really doing business in the country.

Valve do have servers located here in Australia, which counts as a physical presence. So they have to play by our rules.

They can simply relocate those servers. Now which do you think would cost more?
See these are the things Valve is considering. Is it worth it to pay up 3 million?

NOthing will stop aussie gamers from buying on steam. Even if they have a few seconds more lag.

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