Federal Court finds Valve guilty of deception over Steam refunds


news The Federal Court has found that the Valve Corporation misled Australian consumers over consumer guarantees on its online game distribution and social platform Steam.

In proceedings brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the court ruled that the company engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to consumers under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

Valve was found to have made the following deceptive representations in the terms and conditions contained in different versions of its Steam subscriber agreement and refund policy:

  • Consumers were not entitled to a refund for digitally downloaded games purchased from Valve via the Steam website or Steam Client (in any circumstances)
  • Valve had excluded statutory guarantees and/or warranties that goods would be of acceptable quality
  • Valve had restricted or modified statutory guarantees and/or warranties of acceptable quality.

The ruling judge, Justice Edelman, concluded that, despite being an international online platform, Valve was carrying on business in Australia.

“The Federal Court’s decision reinforces that foreign-based businesses selling goods and/or services to Australian consumers can be subject to Australian Consumer Law obligations, including the consumer guarantees,” said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims in a statement.

“In this case, Valve is a US company operating mainly outside Australia, but, in making representations to Australian consumers, the Federal Court has found that Valve engaged in conduct in Australia,” Sims said.

He added it was also significant that the court ruled that Valve was conducting business in Australia.

According to Sims, this is the first time the courts have applied the extended definition of ‘goods’ to include computer software under the ACL.

“It will provide greater certainty where digital goods are supplied to consumers through online platforms,” he said, adding that the ACCC will continue to take “appropriate enforcement action” to hold businesses accountable for breaches of the ACL.

Steam is an online digital distribution platform developed by Valve, offering digital rights management, multiplayer gaming, and social networking services. As of February this year, over 7,500 games were available through the platform, which boasts around 125 million active users.

Image credit: Valve


  1. Now how can the Federal Court enforce the decision and penalties (up to $1.1 million per breach)? Online games giant Valve found to have breached Australian consumer law http://www.watoday.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/online-games-giant-valve-found-to-have-breached-australian-consumer-law-20160329-gnt2wd.html .

    This is shaping to be the dugite in the grass: when a commercial entity having no physical presence in a jurisdiction but carries on a business in that jurisdiction, how do you enforce any laws? Of course, if Oz has a relevant treaty with the USA, then enforcement could be delegated to a US Court, at a price. But what if the US Court “happens to disagree”?

    • Last I checked Valve has geographical “distribution” rights for the games it sells in Aus and charges Aussies in AUD, so surely there are ways to make them play ball?

      • Aussies are charged in usd still.
        Their current refund policy works, but needs fixing from a legal standpoint. Gotten two refunds from them no problems.

        • Ok, however I was denied to buy the Sierra Space Quest series because of distribution rights issues so clearly they have to play by “the rules” or be sued by the local rights holder.

        • They might charge in USD, but they don’t charge the same price as the US.

          They can’t have it both ways, they can’t claim they just offer access to the US store to Australians if the prices aren’t uniform.

          • This. They are clearing selling to us. A point of note however is that Steam/Valve don’t set prices (well except for there own games).

            So when there is a cost differential based on region, it has nothing to do with Valve, and everything to do with the publisher.

            Hmmmm actually I may need to revise that… looking at the prices at the moment… most things seem to be on the level… Curious. I wonder when that started to change. I see some of the older games are still crazy… but most new releases are at parity.

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