Valve Cops $3 Million Fine From ACCC
Software and gaming digital distribution giant Valve has been slammed by the ACCC in federal court ruling over a breach of Australian Consumer Law.
The ACCC, who first raised the legal challenge in 2014, had their allegations that Valve’s online gaming platform Steam made false or misleading representations to consumers over their rights validated by Justice Edelman.
The Court ruled on the 23rd of December that the terms and conditions in the Steam subscriber agreements, and Steam’s refund policies, included false or misleading representations about consumers’ rights to obtain a refund for games if they were not of acceptable quality.
Valve were also ordered to publish information on Australian consumer rights on their website for 12 months, implement a consumer compliance program for their system and staff, and to avoid making any similar representations to Australian consumers for three years.
In determining the size of the penalty to impose on Valve, Justice Edelman noted that “even if a very small percentage of Valve’s consumers had read the misrepresentations then this might have involved hundreds, possibly thousands, of consumers being affected”.
Justice Edelman also took into account “Valve’s culture of compliance [which] was, and is, very poor.”
Edelman asserted that Valve had formed a view “that it was not subject to Australian law”, calling the company’s approach to the case “disturbing”.
Edelman observed that Valve had “contested liability on almost every imaginable point”, advising that “even if advice had been obtained that Valve was required to comply with the Australian law the advice might have been ignored.”
“These proceedings, and the significant penalties imposed, should send a strong message to all online traders operating overseas that they must comply with the Australian Consumer Law when they sell to Australian consumers,” said ACCC Acting Chair Dr Michael Schaper.
Schaper says that the regulator “will continue to take action to ensure Australian consumers benefit from these Australian Consumer Law guarantees, regardless of whether the business which supplies them is based in Australia or overseas.”
Valve has yet to respond but has until the 20th of February to appeal both the fine and the ruling.