In the latest development in the ongoing saga that is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission versus Valve, the ACCC has asked the Australian courts to fine Valve $3 million as penalty for being found guilty of breaching Australian Consumer Law for their lack of a Steam refunds policy from 2011 to 2014.
As of right now, Steam allows refunds on products providing they are either defective or the user has played less than two hours of the game and the request is made within 14 days of purchasing. This wasn’t always the case however, as while some users did manage to argue their way to refunds prior to 2014, Steam’s official subscriber agreement stated that no refunds would be offered.
Originally reported on Kotaku, in a hearing on Tuesday lawyers for ACCC argued the $3 million figure was “in order to achieve both specific and general deterrents, and also because of the serious nature of the conduct”.
Valve’s attorneys said the lack of a refund policy was in no way intended to mislead or deceive Australian consumers, and argued a lesser fine of $250,000 is more appropriate. Presiding judge, Justice Edelman, questioned this proposal, saying “[Valve’s] proposed penalty of $250,000 isn’t even the price of doing business, it’s next to nothing is it?”
Further discussions in the hearing covered Steam’s support department, which employs around 50 people, and asked whether or not Valve specifically trained them on the ins and outs of Australian Consumer Law. Valve’s counsel, Karl Quackenbush, replied saying “that would be incorrect.”
There was also the matter of if an Australian court could actually enforce a penalty on Valve at all, given they reside in a foreign jurisdiction. Justice Edelman acknowledged this, and asked Valve’s attorneys if they would resist his judgement, to which they replied they had “no instructions that Valve at this time will resist the enforcement overseas of any of your Honour’s orders.”
Justice Edelman plans to hand down his judgements sometime in mid-December or January.
Now I’m not a lawyer or a Justice, but I was thinking instead of just asking for $3 million straight up, can we order Steam to stop charging Australians in US dollars at a different price to the actual US? How long would it take for them to have earned $3 million less in sales if they weren’t over charging on certain games? Or, maybe just charge in goddamn Australian dollarydoos?!
Then again, maybe they’d sell more copies if they lowered the price in either USD or Australian RRP and make more of a profit in the long run, so perhaps that wouldn’t suit as punishment. But hey, fairer prices for the customers, that’d be a great result.