Steam is known among gamers for its refund policy, but prior to 2015, Steam has no official refund policy. This fact has landed them in some civil trouble in Australian Courts. Valve may have created an official refund policy for Steam in 2015, but in 2014 Australia began investigating whether Valve was breaking Australian consumer law. Now, at the conclusion of this multi-year investigation, Valve is being fined 3 million dollars for the consumer law violation.
Valve’s official policy read “Unless required by local law, we do not offer refunds or changes on game.” Valve was not offering refunds in Australia because it did not believe its products were defined under the Australian Consumer Law. The Federal Court of Australia didn’t buy the argument.
Steam now official provides refunds for a variety of reasons including hardware requirements, accidental purchases, or disinterest in the game. A consumer can simply fill out a form on the Steam Powered website and request a refund for nearly any reason imaginable.
Consumers have been returning games they have played and didn’t like for Steam, praising the process. Steam will allow any game to be returned as long as it has been played for less than two hours and the purchase is less than 2 weeks ago. In just a handful of clicks, after testing out a game you can return the game for a full refund. Steam doesn’t allow this system to be abused though. If you consistently request refunds, Steam will have a problem with that. The refund system is meant to be a way to return bad purchases, not as a method of trying out dozens of games.
Despite Valve’s excellent history with refunds and their arguments against consumer law, the 3 million dollar fine still stands. The courts counter-argued that Valve has established servers in Australia, it has logistics set up in Australia, and 2.2 million Steam users reside in Australia. This was all fact; there was no hiding that Valve has strong business ties in Australia.
Valve filed an appeal to the decision, but it was promptly denied by the ACCC. Valve must now pay the 3 million dollar fine or face harsher consequences.