The Australian federal court has fined Valve AUD $3 million, about USD $2.2 million, after ruling that the company breached consumer law when it failed to offer refunds on Steam between 2011 and 2014.
The said fine is the maximum fine ruled by Australia's competition regulator, and about 12 times larger than how much Valve has suggested that it should pay.
Valve Under Fire
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the ruling was imposed because Valve deliberately turned a blind eye against Australian law when it first established Steam in the country, and its flippant disposition since certainly didn't dwindled the court's unease.
The ruling follows Valve's legal battle defeat against the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in March. But Valve's legal woes stretch as far as 2014, when it was first sued by the ACCC for not providing consumer guarantees as prescribed by Australian law.
Under Australia's consumer law, consumers can request a refund or a replacement should the product contain major faults. Valve, according to the complaint, had disregarded the mandate, indicating that it wasn't obligated to offer refunds for any reason.
Vale's refunds policy has since saw huge improvements: it now offers refunds on virtually every product, even stating that refunds will be considered "for any reason." This apparently still wasn't enough to appease the Australian court, however.
The report stated that Valve had received 21,124 tickets containing the word "refund" from 2.2 million Australian Steam accounts. Of those, more than 15,000 were responded to by Valve, but the problem was that Australian Steam users had already accepted Valve's terms and conditions nearly 25 million times between the said period, and those terms and conditions contained violations under Australian law. That means, according to the judge, it was impossible to pinpoint the exact number of Steam users "affected by the misrepresentations."
Valve had suggested that it should be fined only AUD $250,000, but the judge balked at the figure, stating that it didn't come close to the real cost of doing business, and that "it would barely be noticed."
Aside from the steep fine, Valve will also be required to tack a notice on its Australian website, informing the rights of consumers.
Steam is a digital distribution platform for Windows, Mac, and Linux, offering multiplayer gaming, and social networking services, among other services. By November 2015, the service had amassed over 125 million registered accounts, making it the largest distribution platform for PC games.