Valve calls for mediation before ACCC court challenge

Valve Corporation is calling for mediated talks with the ACCC in the lead up to the competition watchdog's federal court case alleging Valve violated Australian consumer law over Steam refunds.

US-based video game developer Valve Corporation called for mediated talks with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in a directions hearing at the Australian Federal Court in Sydney on September 23.

The request comes after the ACCC launched proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against Valve on 29 August, alleging that Valve made false or misleading representations regarding the application of the consumer guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law.

"We are keen to have this matter mediated early," a representative of Valve's defence team asked Justice Jayne Jago during the directions hearing. "We believe there are some things we can discuss with the ACCC ourselves.

"What had been raised is that the ACCC might like to have information from us on a range of things before these proceedings are too far advanced," he said.

Justice Jayne Jagot said that Valve's legal team should file a notice of address for service and any interlocutory appplication, with the application listed for the next directions hearing on October 7.

Valve, based in Seattle, owns and operates the online computer game distribution platform, Steam, which claims over 65 million users worldwide. Valve sells computer games through Steam to Australian customers, but does not have a physical presence in Australia.

The ACCC alleges that Valve made false or misleading representations to Australian Steam customers that they were not entitled to a refund for any games sold by Valve via Steam; and that Valve had excluded, restricted or modified statutory guarantees and/or warranties that goods would be of acceptable quality.

Additionally, the ACCC alleges that Valve misled local customers by saying it was not under any obligation to repair, replace or provide a refund for a game where the consumer had not contacted and attempted to resolve the problem with the computer game developer; and that the statutory consumer guarantees did not apply to games sold by Valve.

ACCC Rod Sims said in August that despite Valve's alleged claims, the Australian Consumer Law applies to any business providing goods or services within Australia.

"Valve may be an American-based company with no physical presence in Australia," he said, "but it is carrying on business in Australia by selling to Australian consumers, who are protected by the Australian Consumer Law.

"It is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law for businesses to state that they do not give refunds under any circumstances, including for gifts and during sales. Under the Australian Consumer Law, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their option if a product has a major fault," he said.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, disclosure orders, adverse publicity orders, non-party consumer redress, a compliance program order and costs.

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