It is a widely accepted notion that the holidays are a time of giving. It looks like gaming giant Valve will, a part from their normal winter sale, be paying out 3 million Australian dollars, though not out of the goodness of its heart. No, the owners and maintainers of the most popular PC game distribution platform, Steam, have been fined this hefty sum as the result of an Australian legal battle which finished earlier this year.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission are an independent regulatory group that attempts to advocate for consumers rights and strike down anti-competitive behavior. The ACCC filed suit against Valve for its ill defined refunds policy, and has won this battle regarding its lack of implementation between 2011 and 2014. Valve established a more open policy on refunds earlier in 2016, likely in anticipation of this ruling.
Justice James Edelman awarded this fine, the maximum amount requested, to be paid within 30 days largely in reaction to Valves lack of interest in local Australian laws and lack of co-operation, 12 times higher than the corporation suggested it should pay following the ruling. On top of that, they will be required to display a large message advising consumers of their rights in this issue on the Steam website for anyone logging in under an Australian IP address for one year.
Though the ruling seems fairly final, Valve has the option to appeal everything until 20 February 2017. It is always nice to see a consumer advocate group making strides in the names of their constituents. While I typically like Valve as a company, it is important to keep even them in check, least they become something significantly worse. Afterall, they can certainly afford it, and the new refund policy has been a step in the right direction. Something to think about while you swim through the offerings of the latest Steam sale.