The fine, which was requested by the ACCC, was the maximum which could be enforced on Valve, with the reason cited due to Valve’s “disregard for Australian law and lack of contrition.”
“Valve is a United States company with 2.2 million Australian accounts which received 21,124 tickets in the relevant period containing the word “refund” from consumers with Australian IP addresses,” Justice Edelman stated in his judgment.
“Yet it 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.”
During proceedings, Karl Quackenbush, Valve’s general counsel, told the court that the company did not obtain legal advice when it set up in Australia, and did not check its obligations until the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission involved itself in April 2014. Instead, Valve only provided its staff with verbal instructions.
Due to this lack of cooperation and overall lack of interest in Australian laws, Justice James Edelman imposed a penalty twelve times more than Valve’s suggested fine, which would have been $250,000.
Justice Edelman noted that the penalty proposed by Valve was “not even a real cost of doing business. It would barely be noticed”. Due to Valve being a private company its profits are unknown, but the court noted that its worldwide income and revenue was “massive”.
In May, it was found that Steam’s website breached Australian Consumer Law because consumers did not have access to minimum quality guarantees (likely due to Steam’s Early Access titles) and were not entitled to a refund.
Due to the ruling, Steam must now introduce a compliance program and place a notice in size 14 font on its Australian website, which is to be used to inform consumers about their rights.
For more information, be sure to read The Sydney Morning Herald’s excellent write-up.
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