Valve sued by Australian consumer watchdog

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The company behind hugely successful PC games service Steam is being sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The watchdog alleges that US-based Valve Corporation is contravening the county’s consumer laws by not offering refunds on games sold via its digital distribution platform.

In documents filed to the Federal Court in Sydney, the organisation argues that Valve does not offer refunds on digital games, restricts statutory guarantees and places itself under no obligation to repair or replace faulty downloads.

“The Australian Consumer Law applies to any business providing goods or services within Australia,” said ACCC chairman, Rod Sims. Valve may be an American based company with no physical presence in Australia, but it is carrying on business in Australia by selling to Australian consumers, who are protected by the Australian Consumer Law.

“It is a breach of the Australian consumer law for businesses to state that they do not give refunds under any circumstances, including for gifts and during sales. Under the Australian consumer law, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their option if a product has a major fault.”

Valve has since responded to the allegations. In a statement to US game site, Kotaku, the spokesperson Doug Lombardi said: “We are making every effort to co-operate with the Australian officials on this matter, while continuing to provide Steam services to our customers across the world, including Australian gamers.”

Launched in 2003, the Steam service has become the biggest digital store for PC game sales with over 65 million customers. In 2013, Valve was sued by a German consumer group over Steam’s refusal to allow customers to re-sell purchased games. However, in that case, the court ruled against the group.

In the UK, consumer contract regulations stipulate that purchasers must be given a 14-day cooling off period when buying goods online. However, this only applies to tangible goods, such as books, CDs or clothing. Sites selling games, music and other data downloads usually require the user to waive the rights to the cooling off period.

In a press release, the ACCC has stated that it is seeking, “declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, disclosure orders, adverse publicity orders, non-party consumer redress, a compliance program order and costs.” A hearing has been set for 7 October.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Keith Stuart, for theguardian.com on Friday 29th August 2014 11.03 Europe/London

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