Valve dismissal by Australian High Court ends 4-year legal battle against ACCC

Valve's attempt to appeal a AU$3 million penalty and ruling that it engaged in deceptive conduct has been dismissed by the High Court of Australia.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has emerged victorious in its almost four-year legal stoush against US-based video game distributor and sometimes creator Valve Corporation, with the High Court dismissing Valve's special leave application.

As a result of the dismissal, Valve is left having to pay a AU$3 million fine and with a ruling that it had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct concerning the rights of Australian consumers.

"As a result of the High Court's refusal of special leave, the Full Federal Court's decision that Valve is bound by the ACL in its dealings with Australian customers, despite being based overseas, is the final decision on this issue," the ACCC said on Friday.

"This important precedent confirms the ACCC's view that overseas-based companies selling to Australian consumers must abide by our laws. 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."

The consumer watchdog launched proceedings in the Federal Court against Valve in August 2014.

The 2016 decision by the Federal Court found that the terms and conditions in the Steam subscriber agreements, and Steam's refund policies, included false or misleading representations about consumers' rights to obtain a refund for games if they were not of acceptable quality, the ACCC said previously.

In recent times, the ACCC has been hauling a number of companies in front of the Federal Court for alleged deceptive conduct.

Apple and the ACCC were ordered to mediation in November over claims the iPhone maker misled customers about their rights to have defective devices fixed. The ACCC had initiated legal action in April last year over Apple allegedly refusing to provide a free remedy if a faulty device has been taken to a non-approved repairer.

During the same month, the Court concluded that property giant Meriton interfered with guests being able to review its serviced apartments on TripAdvisor. The ACCC began action against Meriton in November 2016 when the property giant was allegedly preventing users from using TripAdvisor's "Review Express" service -- an arrangement where accommodation businesses pass on consenting customer email addresses so that the review site may email them prompting them to review their stay.

The court concluded that between November 2014 to October 2015, Meriton had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct with the addition of extra characters into email addresses to prevent the TripAdvisor emails from reaching their intended inbox, or not passing the details on at all.

In several instances where its hotels had issues, such as broken lifts or a lack of hot water, the court found that Meriton had steered the emails away from a majority of its guests.

Across the telco space, the ACCC has forced retail service providers (RSPs) Telstra, Optus, TPG, iiNet, and Internode to refund tens of thousands of their NBN customers for misleading or deceptive conduct over not providing them with the speeds they were paying for.

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