Full steam ahead: ACCC institutes proceedings against Valve for allegedly misleading consumers on guarantee rights

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against Valve Corporation alleging that Valve made false or misleading representations regarding the application of the consumer guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

Playstation controller

Valve is an entertainment software and technology company located in the United States of America. Valve owns and operates an online computer game distribution platform known as ‘Steam’ that has over 65 million users worldwide. Valve sells computer games through Steam to Australian consumers, but does not have a physical presence in Australia.

The ACCC alleges that Valve made false or misleading representations to Australian customers of Steam that:

  • consumers were not entitled to a refund for any games sold by Valve via Steam in any circumstances;
  • Valve had excluded, restricted or modified statutory guarantees and/or warranties that goods would be of acceptable quality;
  • Valve was not under any obligation to repair, replace or provide a refund for a game where the consumer had not contacted and attempted to resolve the problem with the computer game developer; and
  • the statutory consumer guarantees did not apply to games sold by Valve.

“The Australian Consumer Law applies to any business providing goods or services within Australia. 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,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“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.”

“The consumer guarantees provided under the Australian Consumer Law cannot be excluded, restricted or modified,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, disclosure orders, adverse publicity orders, non-party consumer redress, a compliance program order and costs.

The matter has been filed in the Federal Court’s Sydney Registry. A date for the first directions hearing is set for 7 October 2014 at the Federal Court in Sydney before Justice Jagot.

The Australian Consumer Law provides consumers with rights to certain remedies from retailers and manufacturers, when goods fail to comply with the consumer guarantee provisions of the ACL, including that the goods are of acceptable quality and fit for the purpose for which they were sold. That is, if a good is not, for example, of acceptable quality, consumers may be entitled to a refund or a replacement item.  These rights cannot be excluded, restricted or modified.

To find out more about consumer guarantee rights, please visit ACCC’s page on consumer rights & guarantees.

Image credit: wlodi (CC 2.0)