Gaming giant Valve has been hit with a AUD$3 million (USD$2.2 million) fine after a federal court in Australia found its game distribution platform, Steam, breached the country’s consumer laws by not offering refunds between 2011 and 2014. Justice James Edelman said he imposed the maximum fine requested by Australia's competition regulator because of Valve's disregard for Australian law.
The court found that Steam had received 21,124 tickets containing the word “refund” from Australian IP addresses, many of which went ignored or unfulfilled.
“Valve 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," Judge Edelman’s ruling reads, according to the Morning Herald.
The fine is to be paid within 30 days and a notice must be displayed to users logging onto the Steam website with an Australian IP address, regarding consumer rights in Australia.
During the case, Valve admitted it had not sought legal advice or checked its obligations relating to consumer laws when it launched in Australia. It did fulfill 15,000 refund requests, however, specifically for users who couldn’t install or play a game or purchased the wrong title. Since the case began Valve has also introduced an international refunds policy.
Valve had suggested it pay a penalty of $250,000 but Justice Edelman noted this was "not even a real cost of doing business.” The company has until 20 February next year to appeal the fine and the ruling.