The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced it is taking legal action in the Federal Court against Valve Corporation, the publisher of popular gaming titles including the Half-Life and Portal series.
The ACCC alleges that Valve, which is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, in the US, has breached Australian Consumer Law by making "false or misleading representations regarding the application of the consumer guarantees". The allegations relate to Valve's Steam digital distribution service.
The consumer watchdog said that Valve made "false or misleading representations" to Australians who used Steam to purchase and play games. Those included that customers were not entitled to refunds for games sold through Steam under any circumstances and that the company "excluded, restricted or modified statutory guarantees and/or warranties that goods would be of acceptable quality".
In a statement the ACCC said that Valve had misled consumers by saying it "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 that statutory consumer guarantees did not apply to games sold by the company.
"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 chief Rod Sims said in a statement.
"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 sale," Sims said.
"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."
"We are making every effort to cooperate with the Australian officials on this matter, while continuing to provide Steam services to our customers across the world, including Australian gamers," a Valve spokesperson said.
The first directions hearing for the action will be on 7 October in the Federal Court in Sydney.
The ACCC is seeking "declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, disclosure orders, adverse publicity orders, non-party consumer redress, a compliance program order and costs."
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