Valve hit with $2.1 million fine by Australian courts over Steam refunds

An Australian court has ruled that Valve must pay a whopping $AU3 million ($2.15 million US) fine following the loss of its legal battle against the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission earlier this year. The fine is the maximum requested by the regulatory body, and according to the Sydney Morning Herald was imposed because of Valve's disregard for Australian law when it set up shop in the country, and "lack of contrition" since. 

Valve's troubles began in mid-2014, when it was sued by the ACCC for not offering consumer guarantees that are required by Australian law. "Under the Australian Consumer Law, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their option if a product has a major fault," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said at the time. But Valve, according to the complaint, had indicated that it was not obligated to provide refunds for any reason, and "had excluded, restricted or modified statutory guarantees and/or warranties that goods would be of acceptable quality." 

Valve's refund policy has changed dramatically since the suit was filed—it  now offers refunds on just about everything, "for any reason"—but that apparently didn't impress the judge on the case. 

"Valve is a United States company with 2.2 million Australian accounts which received 21,124 tickets in the relevant period containing the word 'refund' from consumers with Australian IP addresses," Justice James Edelman wrote in his ruling. "Yet it had a culture by which it formed a view without Australian legal advice that it was not subject to Australian law, and it was content to proceed to trade with Australian consumers without that advice and with the view that even if advice had been obtained that Valve was required to comply with Australian law the advice might have been ignored." 

Valve had actually offered more than 15,000 refunds during the relevant period, according to the report, but the violating terms and conditions had been accepted by Steam users in Australia nearly 25 million times between 2011 and 2014. That, Edelman said, meant it was "impossible to calculate the precise number of consumers who were affected by the misrepresentations." Valve had suggested paying a $250,000 fine, but the judge dismissed that amount, saying "it would barely be noticed."   

Valve will also be required to post a notice on its Australian website, in size 14 type, informing consumers of their rights. 

Update: The headline originally stated that the fine was $3 million, but that amount is in Australian funds. To avoid confusion, it now indicates the equivalent amount in US funds ($2.1 million).

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.