Australia, since 2014, has had a bit of a rocky relationship with gaming giant Valve. It all began when the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) discovered that Steam was in breach of Australian law by not offering refunds.
Under Australian law, refunds must be offered if a product is faulty. And, with Steam, as you can imagine, there are quite a few faulty games floating around. No warranties were offered on these games, Valve decided they weren’t responsible for any dodgy products sold through their service, and as a result, consumers were left high and dry when they bought a game that wasn’t up to scratch.
If a game was misleading in its advertising, sold as a product that didn’t perform as it said on the tin, or it was even something that the consumer just decided wasn’t right for them, they had no way to return it. The ACCC rightly decided this was a bit of an issue and sued Valve, because anyone selling products in Australia is required, by law, to adhere to Australian qualities and standards. Which, of course, includes getting refunds.
And so, the case went to trial. Australia won out, and that’s how we wound up with the Steam refund system we have today. Currently the system states that users are entitled to a refund as long as they meet the following conditions: They’ve played the game for under two hours, and they purchased the game within the last two weeks. The game also can’t be refunded if it was received for free, either by a gift or a promotional code.
At the time of the official ruling, Valve had still tried to fight it, stating that their products shouldn’t even be considered ‘goods’ by Australian law, and that on some kind of crazy technicality they figured this meant they weren’t selling goods in Australia. Naturally, this didn’t fly. You might also notice this is why prices aren’t offered in AUD on Steam, in an attempt to continue to justify their bizarre idea of what ‘selling goods’ means.
But in 2016, the ruling was delivered and Valve was found to have engaged in misleading Australian consumers. They appealed, lost that appeal in December 2017, and were ordered to pay up big. ‘Big’, in this case, meaning to the tune of $3 million AUD.
Now, over the past few days if you’ve tried to purchase something on Steam, you might have noticed something popping up. If you’re trying to purchase said game within Australia, at least.
The notice links to the ruling against Valve, as well as explaining a little bit about Australian consumers rights and links to the ACCC and how to find out more about your rights when it comes to buying games through Steam.
While this is certainly a start, there’s still a ways to go. At least in my mind. The biggest thing being, of course, prices still being displayed in American dollars as opposed to Australian dollars. But now the hammer has fallen and Valve has nowhere to go, maybe they’ll finally go ahead and change that.
Of course, with Steam being the only major client available, with the only competition being smaller clients individual developers are releasing, it’s still dominating the market leaving consumers with little choice if they want to take their business elsewhere.
We’ll keep our eyes peeled for more changes and let you know as they happen.