‘Let the booting begin!’
Back in March, the Australian Federal Court found Valve guilty for several breaches of the Australian Consumer Law in a case that was initially brought forth in 2014 by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The rationale behind the suit was that the ACCC was convinced that Valve had made misleading representations relating to the company’s refund policy or lack thereof.
In Australia, customers are legally entitled to a refund, replacement or repair of any product that can reasonably be considered defective or not fit for purpose. This is a legal right, and no license agreement created by a private enterprise can override the entitlements guaranteed by the Australian Consumer Law. As the ACCC puts it:
“Under the Australian Consumer Law, all consumer goods or services come with automatic consumer guarantees that they are of acceptable quality and fit for the purpose for which they were sold. If they are not, consumers have a right to a remedy, which may include refund, repair or replacement in certain circumstances. These consumer rights cannot be excluded, restricted or modified.”
To put it simply, due to Valve’s refusal to provide a refund for defective goods prior to the June of last year, even going as far as to expressly state in its Steam Subscriber Agreement that it had a “standalone policy not to give refunds,” the company was found guilty of violating the Australian Consumer Law. As a side note, even the act of displaying a ‘no refund’ sign can be regarded as an illegal offence in Australia.
Valve’s original argument was that because it is based in Seattle, it should not be beholden to the same standards that Australian businesses are held to. It claimed that it should only have to abide by the laws of Washington State. This was found to be irrelevant, however, as it was still engaging in conduct in Australia by providing its service to consumers from that country.
In a hearing that was held last Tuesday, the ACCC argued that Valve — whose guilt has already been determined — should be ordered to pay $3 million AUD, which is a radically different figure to the $250,000 proposed by Valve’s attorneys.
According to Kotaku Australia, the ACCC’s argument for a fine this large was that it could theoretically serve as a deterrent against future breaches of the Consumer Law. The ACCC also argued that the “serious nature” of Valve’s conduct also warranted a fine this substantial.
When asked by the Justice overseeing the case about the prospect of Valve simply avoiding the ruling due to its status as an overseas business, the company’s attorneys responded by saying that it had “no plans at this point in time to resist the enforcement overseas of any of your Honour’s orders.”
I should mention that just because the ACCC is asking for Valve’s fine to be a total sum of $3 million AUD doesn’t mean that this figure is anywhere near finalised. Depending on the decisions of the Australian Federal Court, the amount of money that Valve will be ordered to pay may be substantially different when the finalised ruling is handed down in mid-December or January.
Just remember that disparaging the boot is a bootable offence, Valve. It’s one of Australia’s proudest traditions.
ACCC Asks Court To Fine Valve $3 Million [Kotaku Australia]