Valve’s appeal against a $3m fine has been denied by the High Court of Australia, after the court ruled that the company had misled consumers with its refund policy.
The case has been running since 2014, when the Australian Competition Consumer Commission (ACCC) took action against Valve, alleging that its consumer guarantee was misleading. It’s rumbled on since then, with Valve even arguing in 2016 that it wasn’t even doing business in Australia because the digital projects it sold aren’t legally goods.
A judge decided that this wasn’t the case, and in the process set a precedent in Australian law that goods included all forms of software. Along the way, the judge also decided that Valve had made "false or misleading representations to Australian customers"
There is no higher court in the land, so Valve will now, presumably, have to cough up the $3m fine, but the now established precedent that digital software is protected by the same rights as anything other consumer product is probably a much larger deal.
"This important precedent confirms the ACCC’s view that overseas-based companies selling to Australian consumers must abide by our laws," said ACCC commissioner Sarah Court. "If customers buy a product online that is faulty, they are entitled to the same right to a repair, replacement or refund as if they’d walked in to a store."
As video games move increasingly towards a digital method, this will mean that any company selling digital software in Australia, whether that’s the bigger storefronts like Xbox and Playstation, small outfits like Itch.io or even an independant publisher selling games via direct download on their website, will now have to play ball with Australian consumer rights laws.