Valve Sued by Australia's Consumer Watchdog Over Refund Policy

RicoADF

Welcome back Commander
Jun 2, 2009
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Trippy Turtle said:
I feel like this is a case of people siding with the ACCC because its popular to hate the big bad million-dollar company. If you aren't sure you like something, don't buy it. If Valve loses this it will be another case of just protecting people who lack common sense. Despite what people here like to claim, Valve(Or any other game distributor) doesn't 'force early access games on us', its just giving you an extra option for gods sake, or give us false promises on the games we buy. If you don't know exactly what you are buying, its your own fault for being careless and lazy.
You can check out any game for free on youtube before you buy it. Plenty of games have free demos to try. Go to a friends house or something and see if you like it. Getting a refund for a game is like eating out for dinner then deciding you didn't like it enough to pay.

As far as I'm aware, this is all because someone didn't like the game? Short of being actually unplayable because the game is not working as intended, you do not deserve and should not be entitled to a refund.

If it changes anything, I'm Australian myself.
Their talking about buying games that don't work, eg: The latest Aliens: Colonial Marines, the ACCC is hitting them for not having a clear refund policy for such issues. Yes people have gotten refunds but it's often with a "this one time only" attitude even when it's the game that is at fault. They are not saying you should get a refund because you don't like the game, that's not their concern, their refering to games that don't work or are falsely advertised.
 

SajuukKhar

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Sep 26, 2010
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While I would normally support this, there does exist the fundamental problem that STEAM, and everything it sells, is wholly digital, and thus, its impossible to refund something.

The entire process of trading in, lending, refunding, only works because physical materials are limited, and break down, thus ensuring new copies must be bought.

Such conditions dont exist in the digital world, there is no limited stock, there in no wearing down of data, digital products are, by their nature, worthless. You cant give back money to something you technically never lost, since Valves total number of game copies never changes from infinity.

Unfortunately, very antiqued consumer rights laws are still stuck in decades past, before any of this existed, and still falsely treat digital selling the same as physical selling, when they are oceans apart.
 

Adam Jensen_v1legacy

I never asked for this
Sep 8, 2011
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That took long enough. I'm surprised that the EU hasn't done something about it yet. This could fix a lot of what's wrong with Steam these days due to all the shovelware that's being dumped on Steam.

However, how would you prevent people from playing the game and then asking for a refund after they beat it?
 

Strazdas

Robots will replace your job
May 28, 2011
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BigTuk said:
erttheking said:
Christ I wish we had something like this in the States. Well, hope the ACCC wins this one.
Didn't work when the Germans tried it... and believe it or not.. Steam already gives refunds...when the product is genuinely unplayable... but not meeting expectations is a nebulous term. If the game is unplayable or misleadingly advertized.. refund, otherwise... yeah.. it's on ye.
It did when UK tried it though! Whenever steam refuses a refund just cite the UK consumer law and bam - refund. that is if you live in UK. UK law states that a person has a right to return it in 7 days without giving a reason.

ALso germans didnt want a refund, they wnated a right to Resell (as they should by EU law)
 

Smooth Operator

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Oct 5, 2010
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Very good, plain facts are Steam doesn't comply with consumer rights of any country other then USA, which means they are breaking the law in most countries...
I know this all seems silly because you already gave up all your rights, but others would still appreciate a fair business.
 

Infernal Lawyer

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Jan 28, 2013
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Trippy Turtle said:
I feel like this is a case of people siding with the ACCC because its popular to hate the big bad million-dollar company. If you aren't sure you like something, don't buy it. If Valve loses this it will be another case of just protecting people who lack common sense. Despite what people here like to claim, Valve(Or any other game distributor) doesn't 'force early access games on us', its just giving you an extra option for gods sake, or give us false promises on the games we buy. If you don't know exactly what you are buying, its your own fault for being careless and lazy.
You can check out any game for free on youtube before you buy it. Plenty of games have free demos to try. Go to a friends house or something and see if you like it. Getting a refund for a game is like eating out for dinner then deciding you didn't like it enough to pay.

As far as I'm aware, this is all because someone didn't like the game? Short of being actually unplayable because the game is not working as intended, you do not deserve and should not be entitled to a refund.

If it changes anything, I'm Australian myself.
As has already been said, this absolutely isn't about someone wanting to return the game because "it sucks".
 

Therumancer

Citation Needed
Nov 28, 2007
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Shamanic Rhythm said:
Therumancer said:
Huh? By "Go After Gabe" I didn't mean commandoes, I meant trying to get him extradited or made to face charges/pay fines if he decided to say run STEAM as a sort of illegal service after officially leaving.
I was making a joke.

At the end of the day all of those other companies that backed down that you mentioned are not worth STEAM in the one area it caters to: distributing games.
I'm sorry, did you just suggest the App Store isn't comparable to Steam in terms of market worth as a digital distribution platform? Because they've been made to bend over by the ACCC before.
https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/apple-australia-gives-undertaking-to-accc-to-improve-its-consumer-guarantees-policies-and-practices
Shamanic Rhythm said:
Therumancer said:
Huh? By "Go After Gabe" I didn't mean commandoes, I meant trying to get him extradited or made to face charges/pay fines if he decided to say run STEAM as a sort of illegal service after officially leaving.
I was making a joke.

At the end of the day all of those other companies that backed down that you mentioned are not worth STEAM in the one area it caters to: distributing games.
I'm sorry, did you just suggest the App Store isn't comparable to Steam in terms of market worth as a digital distribution platform? Because they've been made to bend over by the ACCC before.
https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/apple-australia-gives-undertaking-to-accc-to-improve-its-consumer-guarantees-policies-and-practices
But that's Apple, Apple is a more diverse business that sells products across a larger spectrum, laptops, computers, notepads, phones, digital distribution... their App store, is just part of it's product portfolio. Taking losses due to refunds on the app store is compensated by doing business across the rest of the spectrum. Valve does not do other kinds of business, so it's entirely about the digital distribution, if they are going to potentially take a big enough loss, there is no reason to continue to sell in The Australian market. What's more Apple has viable competition from other app marketplaces, Steam does not, if Steam leaves Australia PC gaming as a whole suffers. See the thing is that even if Apple didn't make a cent off of the app store due to Australian returns policies, it would make money through selling it's other products, thus it's worth it for them.

Now don't get me wrong, I'd actually like to see Australia succeed here, as I do not like the digital marketplace and agree with their principles, and I do not disagree that they have gotten other businesses to comply, however Steam is in a different position that a lot of these other companies even if it's not as big, since it's not really the size or power that matters here, it's being more or less the only game in town at their level when it comes to PC gaming, and the simple fact that it doesn't do anything else besides distribute games digitally, so one can't say that it's worth their while to comply with something like this due to the other aspects of their business. As I said in another response had Australia decided to wait until Valve went into other areas like it's been talking about doing, manufacturing hardware and the like, then it would arguably have a bit more leverage, because Valve would weigh those losses against the overall gains across their various products, and it would come out as being far more worthwhile.

I'm a pessimist though, that's why I think this might be the way things are going. Right now Valve holds something close to a monopoly on digital PC game distribution, and Australia as a market has always had problems getting games (according to the complaints I've read), that puts them in a rather unique position. Remember even though bigger companies, guys like Apple and Microsoft also compete with each other, if say Apple leaves the Australian market, everyone will just buy other products of the same type. If STEAM leaves, who else will Australians buy games from? Sure there are digital distributors, but none as good as STEAM either in terms of selection or prices, it's literally in a class by itself.... and again since Digital Distribution is all Valve does, if Australia cuts into Gabe's profits, and/or he thinks it represents a risk due to these policies, what's in it for him to keep dealing with Australia and help them establish precedents? If he packs up and go home, a lot of people are going to be very upset, and odds are if he threatens to do it, I'd imagine a lot of Australians would probably start pushing for Valve to get some kind of exemption, even if they disagree in principle, there is probably a very high demand for the service he provides, especially given that people are probably already heavily invested in Valve due to having bought games on their
platform and if Gabe leaves, they lose everything.

I actually hope I'm wrong, but the bottom line is if Valve pushes, I think it's actually got Australia by the nads. That's one of the advantages to a virtual monopoly and why you try and stop people from establishing them (or Cartels if you can help it)... and of course one of the reasons I've always hated digital distribution is that if a company goes down or loses everything and is forced to go out of business, they take all your virtual property with them. I only do it because I have to, but as a general rule I do not like the idea of giving someone real money for a product I do not have control over myself.
 

Elijin

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May 10, 2020
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Therumancer said:
Actually a lot of this is probably going to come down to how much STEAM wants to play hardball. They are a digital distribution service, and as a general rule returning a digital product is a touchy subject, as nothing prevents you from say playing the game, or simply deciding you don't like it/suffer buyers remorse and then return it. Furthermore while it was a bad idea, STEAM has started doing a big business by selling/distributing unfinished games in alpha and beta states, as much as I agree they shouldn't do that, but it is part of their model now, and they could arguably be made to refund money from nearly every early access title they sold.

STEAM's likely counter move in this case is going to be to tell Australia to blow off, and deal with it, if they don't, STEAM will leave. At the end of the day this is going to hurt Australian consumers more than their long standing policies have, since Australia has had a notoriously hard time getting games in the past, and I've heard some Aussies describe STEAM in terms reserved from angels descending from the heavens when it comes to gaming. EA still generally wants to sell physical products in Australia, console games and the like, but right now STEAM doesn't do any kind of physical business, it's entirely digital.

What's more the internet being what it is, once they "officially" leave Australia it just means that Aussies will likely still keep buying STEAM games, finding ways around whatever mechanisms the government puts into place to stop them. Especially if Valve helps from that end. Sure technically one can argue "The Australian Government will go after Gabe" but I just don't see it happening. I mean look at the fiasco involved in getting Kim Dotcom, and he doesn't have half the swing and good will of Gabe Newell and Valve, especially seeing as Gabe isn't even really stealing anything, he's just violating internet control. It's not like crap has happened to China and it's done far worse things across
all areas of commerce.

That said, it's not likely to be any kind of fight like that. At the end of the day, I think Australia needs STEAM more than STEAM needs Australia. Especially given the amount of products people have purchased that are already dependent on the service. Basically your looking at a real world continental sequel to "Children Of Steam".

Don't get me wrong, I agree 100% with the principles of Australia's consumer policies, and I do think there should be mechanisms in place for digital refunds. Of course at the same time I understand why digital distributors, given the current technology, do not want to offer refunds. I'd like to see Australia win, and some kind of massive wave of pro-consumer policies eminate outwards from the land down under, and bring reforms to digital businesses (with many more to come, I have never been a big fan of Digital Distribution, preferring "disc in hand" I simply suffer it because I have to) but I don't see it happening. The most Australia can do is tell Gabe "if you don't comply, you can't do business here" at which point in weighing that precedent compared to the value of Australian customers (considering the amount of money he could lose here especially if the rulings turn STEAM into what amounts to a free game service due to forced returns) I think there is a good chance he'll just leave. STEAM doesn't have other services on the same level to compete with at the moment.
Well, you're out of touch.

Steam price gouge so heavily in Australia that they wont even blink. They'll agree to the terms as fast as possible so it isnt very public, and return to business as usual. The fact a small percentage of people are getting returns will mean nothing when we pay anywhere up to double what US users pay.

So no, Steam wont play hardball because even when they lose, they've already won. Because the REAL issue which is digital pricing. Involving companies such as Steam, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, Google and others, each investigation is stonewalled with the companies refusing to co-operate and nothing changing. The companies absorb the fine without flinching, and continue to rip us off.

Edit: Extra points for the stifling of the competition. GoG has been forced to implement a 'region selector' after being sued by Australian business (which lucky they were clever and made it entirely elective, not IP based.) and Amazon only offers digital sales if you have a US billing address.
 

ron1n

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Jan 28, 2013
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Therumancer said:
I actually hope I'm wrong, but the bottom line is if Valve pushes, I think it's actually got Australia by the nads. That's one of the advantages to a virtual monopoly and why you try and stop people from establishing them (or Cartels if you can help it)... and of course one of the reasons I've always hated digital distribution is that if a company goes down or loses everything and is forced to go out of business, they take all your virtual property with them. I only do it because I have to, but as a general rule I do not like the idea of giving someone real money for a product I do not have control over myself.
This word monopoly, I don't think it means what you think it does.

Greenman Gaming, Origin, GoG, Ozgameshop, Uplay, Amazon (with some address trickery), GetGames, Humble Store. And that's just off the top of my head and not including a lot of other foreign options or grey-area key sites.

I actually don't buy much off steam at all these days because of their horrid pricing. Especially Triple A releases. Can nearly always get a better price off Greenman or Get Games.

And you just countered your own argument. Do you have any idea of the backlash if Steam decided to up and lock out Australia? Would be fucking stupidity incarnate. Will never happen.

Also I think people in this thread are vastly overestimating the powers of ACCC. They are the very definition of a paper tiger.
 

Revolutionary

Pub Club Am Broken
May 30, 2009
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Well I mean...yeah. It's a fundamental part of Australian Consumer law,if a product is defective it's on the vendor to replace or refund. Pretty basic stuff, honestly I've been saying for a while that steam needs some sort of refund policy.
 

alj

Master of Unlocking
Nov 20, 2009
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Come on valve just change your policy and offer refunds, when EA of all people are better at you than this you need to take a look in the mirror and think "where have i done fucked up?".

I think this should also apply in Europe , as far as i know the European law is almost the same.
 

Riotguards

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Feb 1, 2013
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i actually welcome this as good news, the biggest flaw in valve ws that they had a "one time refund" which since i'm in the UK means S*** since we can get a refund (if the product is faulty)
 

Ishigami

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Sep 1, 2011
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Go and get them ACCC!

I?m very displeased how things run atm in the software world.
For physical products I?m able to get replacements, repairs or refunds in case of a faulty product very easily being backed by several consumer rights.
For software this is usually not possible and you are basically at the mercy of the publisher/developer (whatever). And let?s face it: The track record of the industry isn?t that good.
 

uguito-93

This space for rent
Jul 16, 2009
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Akisa said:
uguito-93 said:
BigTuk said:
Perth and Adelaide are medium sized cities, their more like the traditional Australian towns with people being more polite, more likely to help eachother out and are cheaper places to live.
Honestly, as someone who lives here, Perth is probably one of the most expensive cities to live in almost anywhere. Everything from food to retail to housing has been steadily getting more and more expensive over the years. Right now alcohol insane with most 6-packs costing you $15-$20
Seems cheap, what brand? Than again I live in NYC.
Thats what something on the cheap side like a corona would cost, what's it like over in NYC? I'd imagine it would be close to that, or even a bit more.
 

The White Hunter

Basment Abomination
Oct 19, 2011
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Sleekit said:
erttheking said:
RicoADF said:
erttheking said:
Christ I wish we had something like this in the States. Well, hope the ACCC wins this one.
Google and Apple stores all comply, they will 'win' as this is already set in law, their basically giving Valve a chance to accept they stuffed up and fix it. If they don't they will be fined/sued.
...If one was to move to Australia from the United States, where would you recommend he go?
New Zealand

ba dum tsh
Seconded.

It's similar, but less things can kill you and everyone is a bit less drunk.

OT: Good.

Fuck steam and fuck their terrible customer support.
 

CriticalMiss

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Jan 18, 2013
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In the UK you can already get a refund for a game by reminding Valve of our consumer rights laws, they'll then give you a refund and pretend it's a one off out of the goodness of their hearts and not because it is legally required. You shouldn't have to basically threaten them with legal action to get a refund on a faulty game but that is how Steam Support want to play it. So now I don't buy games directly through Steam (hurray for Humble Bundle and gog.com!).

Good luck ACCC and Australian gamers, hopefully Valve won't have a hissy fit and stop selling you games outright.
 

TheDoctor455

Friendly Neighborhood Time Lord
Apr 1, 2009
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For once I'm the Australian Government's side...

well... unless this hearing is also a sneaky way to force censorship down the industry's throat again.
 

Metalrocks

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Jan 15, 2009
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not bad. i wish i could get my money back for duke forever. but since i did purchase the game in hong kong, i think i can forget it. still wish EA will give me my money back for BF4 but nope, not happening. at least for the damn premium i want my money back.
hope hong kong laws will have this as well.
 

bug_of_war

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Nov 30, 2012
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uguito-93 said:
Thats what something on the cheap side like a corona would cost, what's it like over in NYC? I'd imagine it would be close to that, or even a bit more.
HA! Corona is not cheap beer. West End, Teds, Carlton Cold etc. they're cheap beers.

OT: There's too many people here that aren't reading the article. They want refunds to be available all the time for games that are (This part here is what you've missed) BROKEN/FAULTY/FALSELY ADVERTISED.

Right now you can get a refund yes, however it takes much longer than it should and you're treated very poorly for doing so. Took me a month and a bit to get a refund for Ghost Recon as it was literally unplayable, and I got a nice little e-mail saying, "This is the only time we'll do this.". Can you imagine going into a retail shop with a product that is from the get go broken, and then spending the next month trying to get them to refund it and finally being told, "Okay, but this is a one time thing". You would never shop there again!

And if Steam does play hardball and stops distributing to Australia, the PR and loss of business is gonna be HUGE. Steam's already copping flack for the lack of quality control, imagine the flack they'll get for being the kid who grabbed their toys and walked off the playground. And whilst I'm not saying Australia is a huge factor in Steam's sales, we are still a percentage. And while it may not be a huge loss to begin with, the business will go elsewhere (Origin for example) and the added influx of users on other distributors will mean that the company will be able to begin to add benefits similar to Steam. Cheaper games, better quality control, wider range.

As a few people have said before me, when EA's Origin is offering 7 day refunds and free games (varying from tripple A to indie) every so often, you need to check your shit.