German consumer group sues Valve over the resale of Steam games

By on February 1, 2013, 8:30 AM

The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V. or VZBV) has sued Valve for not allowing Steam users to resell their games. Speaking about the policies of Valve's digital distribution service, VZBV project manager Carola Elbrecht said that if customers truly own the titles they purchase on Steam, they should have the option to resell them when they want to, just as they would when dealing with a physical card or board game -- a shaky comparison, some would argue.

Elbrecht noted that although a Steam user could technically download a game, burn it to a disc and sell the physical media, the buyer generally wouldn't be able to play the title because it's likely bound to a specific account. Additionally, Valve doesn't let users transfer accounts, so legally selling an entire library is also impossible. Given those policies, Elbrecht feels consumers only have partial ownership of their games. "If I pay the full price for a game, then why am I not allowed to do with it what I want," she said.

The filing marks the VZBV's latest attempt to loosen Valve's restrictions. The group targeted Steam's lack of support for account transfers in a 2010 suit that case made it to the German Federal Court of Justice, which sided with Valve. Given that outcome, it remains to be seen how successful the VZBV's latest push will be, but the group may catch a lucky break considering the CJEU's recent ruling in favor of the ability to resell digitally distributed software. If nothing else, it will raise awareness Elbrecht said.

Speaking with PCWorld about the latest suit, Valve vice president of marketing Doug Lombardi said he was aware of the VZBV's press release about the filing, but that Valve hasn't laid eyes on the actual complaint yet. "That said, we understand the complaint is somehow regarding the transferability of Steam accounts, despite the fact that this issue has already been ruled upon favorably to Valve in a prior case between Valve and the VZBV by the German supreme court," he said, referring to the mentioned 2010 case.

In addition to pressuring Valve over the resale issue, the VZBV has criticized the company for following the lead of other industry heavyweights by banning class action suits and forcing users into an arbitration clause with an EULA update last year. The organization deemed the policy change to be a form of coercion because Valve essentially forced users to agree with the new terms by holding their accounts hostage. Without agreeing to the updated conditions, users couldn't access their accounts or games.




User Comments: 28

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Nima304 said:

It would be great if we could sell Steam games. Some games I don't really play, and would like to get rid of if I had the ability to.

ikesmasher said:

People will complain about anything. I dont mind it; its the only other price I pay for really, really cheap games.

Puiu Puiu said:

If you don't like it then don't use it.

They are giving you so much for free (free downloads, community, chat, updates and soooo much more) and they ask of you to not cheat and to not resell the games. A fair trade in my book.

Ma_ga said:

If you don't like it then don't use it.

They are giving you so much for free (free downloads, community, chat, updates and soooo much more) and they ask of you to not cheat and to not resell the games. A fair trade in my book.

You are paying for all that, it's not free.

It would be nice to be allowed to resell games at a fair price or gift them.

GeneralAtrox GeneralAtrox said:

I don't enjoy the idea of when you start using Steam you are completely roped into it and when they change their subscriber agreement (as the picture above shows),

You are forced to agree or else you lose everything.

I personally love Steam & Valve. <3 Brilliant deals! Shame no Diablo 3 though,

wastedkill said:

You are paying for all that, it's not free.

It would be nice to be allowed to resell games at a fair price or gift them.

Sorry to tell you this but what exactly are we "Paying for"? steam is free heard that free and all the downloads, community, chat, updates etc. are free this isn't microsoft there is no steam live subscription you pay yearly or anything.

What is the difference between this and ubisoft, Origin, star wars the old republic mmo, world of warcraft, gog.com, gamefly, direct2play?

As all I see is that they are all selling games and not allowing you to sell your accounts for the obvious reasons. SURE let them allow people to sell/trade games/accounts etc then when you complain to steam about how your account was hacked and you cant get on they will simply state that you sold your account and/or games so its all your fault

lipe123 said:

I don't see why we cant gift/transfer games to other users.

They already have it all set up when buying new ones to be able to gift that to another account. I mean honestly if I do sell a older game of mine to somone else doesnt that mean im going to use that cash to just buy more new games?

It's win-win jeez.

wastedkill said:

Not exactly as you could sell your games and buy pc equipment I know I would, gifting/transferring games to other uses makes hackers and keygen makers happy which we don't want as I dont want to wake up in the morning to find out some of my games are gone thanks to a gifting/transferring to friends feature which I didn't use.

Tygerstrike said:

Steam should take a page from the used game industry. They should allow you to trade the games you have purchased back to Steam. That way Steam controls their own product and the consumer can get back some of what they paid.

BlueDrake said:

Not exactly as you could sell your games and buy pc equipment I know I would, gifting/transferring games to other uses makes hackers and keygen makers happy which we don't want as I dont want to wake up in the morning to find out some of my games are gone thanks to a gifting/transferring to friends feature which I didn't use.

Isn't that why there's Steam Guard? Throw in some extra personal hoops if you want, such as requiring extra information per game / selection of games if you want. Just to make it simply harder to bypass, there's many ways of locking your account down against this.

Steam Guard is there already. With some extra added security checks, to make 100% sure it's you trading and not someone on your PC. IE: Mobile confirmation or other sorts of checks, anything to ensure you don't lose things to security flaws or other means.

wastedkill said:

Isn't that why there's Steam Guard? Throw in some extra personal hoops if you want, such as requiring extra information per game / selection of games if you want. Just to make it simply harder to bypass, there's many ways of locking your account down against this.

Steam Guard is there already. With some extra added security checks, to make 100% sure it's you trading and not someone on your PC. IE: Mobile confirmation or other sorts of checks, anything to ensure you don't lose things to security flaws or other means.

Ye but steam guard doesn't protect you 100% and not only that but not everyone has a mobile, people I know are actually getting accounts to sell to others and those accounts have games on them and they dont own the account or games.

These accounts are going for like $1 a pop which is stupidly low!

howzz1854 said:

It would be nice if there's some kind of safety net guarding the consumer consider so many of us try out a game and only later find out that it sucks. I spent $40 on Dead Island and only played it for 15 mins and realized it sucked, and hated it. I've since never touched the game ever again. it's a $40 sitting on my digital shelf that I can never use. it would be nice to at least have some kind of game progress tracking mechanism that allows you to refund the game at less than a quarter way through. just like at the movies, you're entitled to a full refund for a movie if you walk out in less than 40 mins, which btw not a lot of people know about.

BlueDrake said:

Ye but steam guard doesn't protect you 100% and not only that but not everyone has a mobile, people I know are actually getting accounts to sell to others and those accounts have games on them and they dont own the account or games.

These accounts are going for like $1 a pop which is stupidly low!

I'm just offering suggestions here. Give them at least SOME incentive, to accept possible trading of used games. I've got well over 200 games in my list, good majority are from bundles or gifts. Most I never even touch honestly, but I get them regardless. Maybe others I know find it interesting, whenever they come to visit possibly.

There's a lot of general things many people want, and Valve has a tight grip for a reason. Just loosen up, let people trade maybe 3-4 games a month? There's many solutions ahead for sure, but nobody wishes to compromise.

Novulux said:

Well Steam only sells you a key to access the game...

Also, allowing used game sales on Steam would probably result in a bunch of people buying games during sales and selling them for a profit soon after.

I also thought that the great prices also justified not be able to sell your license to play, but I guess not.

(I only buy games that are or were $1-10 at some point)

Puiu Puiu said:

You are paying for all that, it's not free.

It would be nice to be allowed to resell games at a fair price or gift them.

It's free. If you gave someone money for steam then it's your problem not ours.

You can always buy a copy in your brick and mortar store. You'll be able to resell it. It's just that it usually costs 2 times more depending on the store (not including steam sales) and it can be lost/destroyed so easily. Did I mention all of the free stuff you get on steam?

go to greenmangaming.com if you want to buy and resell your games. but be careful what you buy, many of them require a steam account and can't be resold.

sliderider sliderider said:

I don't see why we cant gift/transfer games to other users.

They already have it all set up when buying new ones to be able to gift that to another account. I mean honestly if I do sell a older game of mine to somone else doesnt that mean im going to use that cash to just buy more new games?

It's win-win jeez.

You already can gift games to other users. Just give them an unused registration code. I have been gifted games this way several times.

It's free. If you gave someone money for steam then it's your problem not ours.

You can always buy a copy in your brick and mortar store. You'll be able to resell it. It's just that it usually costs 2 times more depending on the store (not including steam sales) and it can be lost/destroyed so easily. Did I mention all of the free stuff you get on steam?

go to greenmangaming.com if you want to buy and resell your games. but be careful what you buy, many of them require a steam account and can't be resold.

The copy you buy in a brick and mortar store also requires a Steam, Origin, or whatever account and once you register it, it is tied to your account forever. You can resell the CD and case, but it will still be useless to the buyer. The only games you can buy in stores these days that does not require registration are all crappy games from low budget publishers.

It would be nice if there's some kind of safety net guarding the consumer consider so many of us try out a game and only later find out that it sucks. I spent $40 on Dead Island and only played it for 15 mins and realized it sucked, and hated it. I've since never touched the game ever again. it's a $40 sitting on my digital shelf that I can never use. it would be nice to at least have some kind of game progress tracking mechanism that allows you to refund the game at less than a quarter way through. just like at the movies, you're entitled to a full refund for a movie if you walk out in less than 40 mins, which btw not a lot of people know about.

Who ever told you that? Please cite the law which says this.

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

I understand where they are coming from tho...they can push any agreements they want on us, probably even payments to play games we purchased because if we don't accept those agreements they just delete your account and all your games go bye bye...if you defend that your insane...

veLa veLa said:

Steam used to be a small studio releasing games that deserved more praise than Hollywood movies. Now they're the big shot in the industry and went mainstream with the Orange Box and TF2, making all games graphically like a cartoon. What I used to love turned into a monster.

PinothyJ said:

Except you do not own your games...

"A. License Terms.

Steam and your Subscription(s) require the automatic download and installation of Software onto your computer. Valve hereby grants, and you accept, a limited, terminable, non-exclusive license and right to use the Software for your personal use in accordance with this Agreement, including the Subscription Terms. The Software is licensed, not sold. Your license confers no title or ownership in the Software. To make use of the Software, you must have a Steam Account and you may be required to be running the Steam client and maintaining a connection to the Internet.

You understand that for reasons that include, without limitation, system security, stability, and multiplayer interoperability, Steam may need to automatically update, pre-load, create new versions of or otherwise enhance the Software and accordingly, the system requirements to use the Software may change over time. You understand that this Agreement (including applicable Subscription Terms) do not entitle you to future updates, new versions or other enhancements of the Software associated with a particular Subscription, although Valve may choose to provide such updates, etc. in its sole discretion.

E. Ownership.

All title, ownership rights and intellectual property rights in and to the Software and any and all copies thereof, are owned by Valve US and/or its or its affiliates' licensors. All rights are reserved, except as expressly stated herein. The Software is protected by copyright laws, international copyright treaties and conventions and other laws. The Software contains certain licensed materials and Valve's and its affiliates' licensors may protect their rights in the event of any violation of this Agreement."

Prosercunus said:

Would I love to resell my huge library of Steam games I don't play anymore? Sure. Do I expect it? Of course not. I knew exactly what I was and am getting into when I purchase Steam games.

Zeutrinox Zeutrinox said:

Lol... What kind of retards are they? Thy should get sued for trying to sue others.

Duckula22 Duckula22 said:

Luckily there are countries where consumer rights aren't as easily lobbied against as in the US.

Wizz-Fizz Wizz-Fizz said:

I often find myself wondering is these so-called "Interest Groups" are acting on behalf of actual complaints, or do they spend their time scouring through various company EULA changes to see if there is anything they can base a lawsuit on, much like patent trolls eagerly awaiting product launches and updates.

I am all for consumer rights, and most certainly do not subscribe to the "Businesses are only here to make money" philosophy. I am of the opinion that a business should offer a product or service that is wanted or needed, in an ethical and fair manner. If they do this well, then they will make money. They dont have to be like EA or Apple just to make money.

I believe that Valve does just this.

Tygerstrike said:

Unfortunatly the cheap side of human nature is whats causing all this. Did you think that purchasing agame on Steam at such a discounted rate wasnt going to have some issues? Yes the games out there cost anywhere from 20-70 bucks for physical media. But you get more rights with the physical media. You dont have the same rights with a digital copy. You as a consumer agreed to the terms and conditions on each and every one of those sales. Personally, I would just be happy I got to play those games and chock up the loss of cash to the fact that I found it that cheap. Blaming Steam and Valve for my own short sightedness smacks not only of heavy sour grapes. But goes to show that no good service goes unpunished. Businesses are only there to make money. The days of some innovator just jumping out and saying "screw me for my product!!" are long long gone. With mega corporations and the shadiness of man, no person would be foolish enough to start a business without having the goal to become rich. Just be happy you found a service that allows you to enjoy this media at a substantially discounted rate. Anything else just goes to show the world that you as a individual are just petty and small and prolly need to have your toys taken away and put in a serious timeout.

lipe123 said:

Unfortunatly the cheap side of human nature is whats causing all this. Did you think that purchasing agame on Steam at such a discounted rate wasnt going to have some issues? Yes the games out there cost anywhere from 20-70 bucks for physical media. But you get more rights with the physical media. You dont have the same rights with a digital copy. You as a consumer agreed to the terms and conditions on each and every one of those sales. Personally, I would just be happy I got to play those games and chock up the loss of cash to the fact that I found it that cheap. Blaming Steam and Valve for my own short sightedness smacks not only of heavy sour grapes. But goes to show that no good service goes unpunished. Businesses are only there to make money. The days of some innovator just jumping out and saying "screw me for my product!!" are long long gone. With mega corporations and the shadiness of man, no person would be foolish enough to start a business without having the goal to become rich. Just be happy you found a service that allows you to enjoy this media at a substantially discounted rate. Anything else just goes to show the world that you as a individual are just petty and small and prolly need to have your toys taken away and put in a serious timeout.

Who said anything about discounted rates? What does the amount paid for the game have to do with its value to the customer?

Physical media is just a content delivery system and doesn't give you any resell rights either, cause you still need to activate the game on steam/origin/etc before you can play it.

You are being overly defensive about something that should be common sense. If I buy a game and get tired of it after 4 hours (that terribad dungeon keeper remake for example) why can I not resell that to somone else for 5$ or w/e I want to sell it for?

It's not like I could still play it after I sold it so whats the problem?

It's BS like this that enables/encourages piracy! Try before you buy became "pirate before you buy" because once you buy you are hosed.

sliderider sliderider said:

I understand where they are coming from tho...they can push any agreements they want on us, probably even payments to play games we purchased because if we don't accept those agreements they just delete your account and all your games go bye bye...if you defend that your insane...

You are not paying for the games, though, just the ability to play them. You do not own anything that can be transferred to someone else. You are paying for an intangible service and if you do not agree to the terms of the service, then they are not obligated to keep you as a customer.

Who said anything about discounted rates? What does the amount paid for the game have to do with its value to the customer?

Physical media is just a content delivery system and doesn't give you any resell rights either, cause you still need to activate the game on steam/origin/etc before you can play it.

You are being overly defensive about something that should be common sense. If I buy a game and get tired of it after 4 hours (that terribad dungeon keeper remake for example) why can I not resell that to somone else for 5$ or w/e I want to sell it for?

It's not like I could still play it after I sold it so whats the problem?

It's BS like this that enables/encourages piracy! Try before you buy became "pirate before you buy" because once you buy you are hosed.

You can't sell it to someone else because you do not own anything that can be sold. It's a pay to play system similar to rentals except that the money you pay entitles you to play the game indefinitely where rentals are for a fixed amount of time.

Luckily there are countries where consumer rights aren't as easily lobbied against as in the US.

What consumer rights are you talking about? Did you even read the terms of the Steam agreement? It specifically states that you do not own the games, you are only buying the ability to play them on the Steam network. What exactly is it that you think you own?

Tygerstrike said:

@Slider

Give it up. These ppl complaining didnt read the ToS. If they did, they agreed to it anyway. Its just little boys crying because they cant have what they want. Put no more stock into it then you would a child having a temper tantrum because he didnt get his way either. Its as easy as can be to understand the Steam business model.

PinothyJ said:

I even posted the relevant section of the subscriber agreement tht you must agree to before ANY game is purchased or activated...

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