Valve Loses Appeal Over $2.3 Million Fine in Australia

The High Court of Australia dismissed yet another appeal from video game publisher Valve on Friday, upholding a 2016 ruling that the company must pay a $3 AUD million (or about $2.3 million USD) penalty after breaking the country’s consumer law.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) sued Valve in 2014 over the lack of a refund policy on its digital storefront Steam. According to the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), every business selling products in the country, physical or digital, must provide refunds to consumers. Valve only offered them on a case-by-case basis at the time.

“As with most software products, unless required by local law, we do not offer refunds or exchanges on games, DLC or in-game items purchased on our website or through the Steam Client,” its policy stated. It implemented a full refund policy in 2015.

But in 2014, refunds were required by Australian law. That led to the ACCC’s lawsuit and, two years later, a trial judge found Valve had “engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to Australian customers about their rights under consumer guarantees.” Valve has 2.2 million Australian Steam accounts, according to the ACCC.

Valve has tried to appeal the judge’s decision multiple times. With today’s ruling, the High Court said Valve is bound by the ACL in its dealings with Australian customers, despite being based overseas.  

“This important precedent confirms the ACCC’s view that overseas-based companies selling to Australian consumers must abide by our laws. If customers buy a product online that is faulty, they are entitled to the same right to a repair, replacement, or refund, as if they’d walked into a store,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

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