Written on the 4 January 2017 by Paris Faint


THE Federal Court has ordered Valve Corporation to pay a $3 million penalty for breaching Australian Consumer Law for misleading its customers about its refund policy.

In March last year the Court found Valve made false or misleading representations to consumers through its popular platform Steam, an online gaming hub which has attracted around 2.2 million Australian users.

It held that Steam's subscriber agreements and refund policy terms included misleading representations about consumers' rights to a refund if games were not of acceptable quality.

Proceedings against the US-based gaming giant were an uphill battle, with the Federal Court's Justice Edelman declaring that the company maintained a poor "culture of compliance" throughout the saga.

"Valve's culture of compliance was, and is, very poor," he said.

Justice Edelman remarked that Valve's evidence was disturbing to the Court because the company "formed the view that it was not subject to Australian law" and that it "contested liability on almost every imaginable point."

Justice Edelman took the gravity of Valve's actions into account when determining the $3 million amount.

"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," he said.

In addition to its hefty fine, The Court ordered Valve to publish Australian customer rights information on its website, implement consumer compliance programs for its systems and staff, and not make any similar representations to Australian consumers for three years.

Dr Michael Schaper, acting chair of the ACCC, said the Valve decision should be a warning to other international retailers playing similar games when it comes to Australian law.

"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," says Schaper.

"We 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."

Author: Paris Faint





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