The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has won its case against Valve as the Australian Federal Court today ruled the company is guilty of breaching consumer law. Specifically, the ruling relates to a suit filed in August 2014 where the ACCC took issue with Valve’s lack of a refund policy for Steam, which goes against guarantees set out in Australian Consumer Law.
Following the original suit, Valve implemented a refund policy where players were entitled to full refunds on products providing they were requested within 14 days of purchase and had played them for less than two hours. The new policy had no bearing on the case however, as determining whether Valve had been in breach of the law for the 10 years it had already been operating in Australia was the main point of contention.
Valve had previously defended their position by saying they don’t actually conduct any business in Australia, rather they provide access to an online storefront of video games through their Steam client software. This is despite the fact Steam charges a specific USD price for the Australian market.
The Federal Court was having none of that defense, with Justice Edelman delivering the judicial equivalent of “nah mate, nice try.” He ruled that Valve does indeed conduct business within Australia, and had published misleading language in the Steam Subscriber Agreement and Steam Refund Policy regarding consumers entitlement to refunds.
The ACCC were pleased with the court’s decision, with chairman Rod Sims saying the ruling sets a precedent that foreign businesses “selling goods and/or services to Australian consumers can be subject to Australian Consumer Law obligations, including the consumer guarantees.”
Sims also said the Federal Court’s decision is a landmark case as it is the first time they have expanded the legal definition of “goods” to include computer software.
Valve’s punishment has yet to be decided, but a hearing is scheduled for April 15 to determine any potential financial repercussions.